Five regular-season games remain on
That, UCLA Coach Steve Alford has indicated, might not bode well.
Earlier this week, Alford declared his team hasn't responded under pressure. He said it again after UCLA's loss to Utah on Thursday and accepted responsibility for the lack of mental toughness.
"That's been me, not them," Alford said. "Any time I've applied a little bit of that mental pressure, we haven't handled it well."
Alford was puzzled because last season's team played better in must-win situations. Kevon Looney, who left for the
On this season's team, Alford said, only guards Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton have shown similar resilience.
"This is a different team," Steve Alford said. "Whether it's been more encouragement, more talking about short term than long term, this team seems to handle that kind of approach a lot better."
Last season, Bryce Alford said the coaches set long-term goals. They wanted to go undefeated at home, for example. At the end of the season, they knew what they needed to accomplish to reach the NCAA tournament.
This season, the coaches say they need to focus on single games. Sometimes even shorter time frames.
"Before each game, they give us three keys of what to focus on the most," Bryce Alford said. "We get so much stuff from scouting, and learning plays and learning each individual player that sometimes it's a lot of stuff to figure out, especially for young guys who aren't used to doing that."
Unlike last season, Steve Alford doesn't plan to emphasize UCLA's NCAA tournament resume to his players.
"We've really talked to our guys about, 'Hey, get focused game to game, take care of it one game at a time,'" Steve Alford said. "If we do that, we get on a roll."
UCLA NEXT UP
When: 8 p.m., Saturday.
Where: Pauley Pavilion.
On the air: TV: FS1; Radio: 570.