UCLA basketball Coach Steve Alford saw the bad habit form in practice. "You'd get a good hour, then the next 20 minutes you'd see the intensity drop," Alford said. The players noticed things weren't right in recent games against California and Oregon, but the Bruins won anyway. "It started on the defensive end, then we had trouble scoring," said point guard Kyle Anderson. It took a free fall during the 71-67 loss to Oregon State on Sunday before there was full acknowledgment of a problem. The Bruins took another in-game sabbatical, allowing the Beavers to wrench control. By the time UCLA rejoined the game, it was too late. It was the third consecutive game that a second-half nap turned into an extended coma. Against Cal, the Bruins led, 51-32, with 15 minutes left before the Golden Bears went on a 20-4 run. By the time UCLA shook loose the cobwebs, Cal was within three points. Against Oregon, the Bruins led, 65-54, with six minutes left before the Ducks scored 14 consecutive points to surge to a three-point lead. UCLA rallied to escape with a 70-68 victory. Against Oregon State, the Bruins couldn't overcome their drought. UCLA's 52-47 lead with eight minutes left was dissolved by an 18-2 Oregon State run. And this time, instead of finding a finishing kick, the Bruins were left kicking themselves. "We have to learn from that," said forward David Wear. UCLA will try to rebound Saturday night when the Bruins (17-5 overall, 6-3 Pac-12) visit the Galen Center to play USC (10-12, 1-8). It's an important game for UCLA and a chance for USC to damage its crosstown rival. Everyone in the Pac-12 is chasing first-place Arizona, which has a two-game lead. UCLA is in second place, sitting just above the muddle that is the middle of the conference standings. Six teams have either four or five losses. Practice, Alford hopes, makes perfect. "I told the guys, 'If we're going 120 minutes, then we're going 120 minutes,'" Alford said. "As coaches, we have to hold them accountable." After the Oregon State loss, Alford lashed out at his team in a locker room scolding that could plainly be heard in the media's quarters next door. At one point, he barked, "You have a week to think about this one." Time is now up, and the Bruins claim to have answers.
UCLA has been hurt by loss of intensity
Los Angeles Times | Feb 8