UCLA struggles in Pac-12 opening loss to Colorado, 62-56

UCLA struggles in Pac-12 opening loss to Colorado, 62-56
Colorado's Jaron Hopkins drives to the basket past UCLA's Noah Allen, left, and Kevon Looney. Hopkins had seven points with five rebounds and three assists in the Buffaloes' 62-56 win over the Bruins. (Jeremy Papasso / Associated Press)

Isaac Hamilton had just finished one of his best individual games of the season, but in a dim corridor outside the visitors' locker room, he looked resigned, his eyes gazing downward.

UCLA (8-6) had lost another game, its fourth in a row, this time 62-56 to Colorado in the Pac-12opener. It has been so long since the Bruins won a game — almost four weeks — that Hamilton needed a moment to remember how long the losing streak had stretched.


"This is our what, fourth, fifth straight loss?" he said.

He was informed that it was four — at some schools a mild setback, but at UCLA, a cause for alarm.

"Yeah," Hamilton said, "it's unacceptable. And it just basically comes down to toughness."

The game was there for the taking. The Buffaloes (8-5) were without forward Josh Scott, their second-leading scorer and the team leader in blocks and rebounds. The Bruins took 70 shots to Colorado's 48.

But, UCLA Coach Steve Alford said, "We had a really, really, really tough shooting night."

Of those 70 shots, just 22 went in — a 31.4% clip.

Bryce Alford was particularly cold. He finished two for 16 from the field and missed all nine three-point attempts. He finished with a season-low eight points.

After the game, Steve Alford didn't say whether he would prefer that his son shoot less when enduring such a tough night.

"There were some ill-advised shots," Steve Alford said. "He wants to do so well. And there were some tough shots. But we've had several guys take some tough shots, and that's what we've been working on."

UCLA actually jumped to a 9-3 lead, a turnaround from anemic starts in the previous three games. The Bruins trailed by one at halftime, the scored seven straight to begin the second half.

Hamilton played 36 minutes and finished with 16 points. Norman Powell shot nine for 20 and scored 22 points to become the 51st UCLA player to eclipse 1,000 career points.

But the rest of the team couldn't get shots to fall. Tony Parker finished one for eight. Kevon Looney was three for nine. The three-man bench combined for two points in 39 minutes, making one of three shots.

UCLA knew this would be the toughest stretch of the season. Five games; two against top-10 teams, three on the road. Steve Alford had warned of this stretch even before the season started.

But now UCLA is living it, and four games in, they haven't weathered it well.


Powell, the most experienced player in the rotation, said the younger players can get jittery. He has tried to calm them down.

"We were right there," Powell said. "A couple of guys had some tough shooting tonight, and I've been there before, so I was telling them just focus on the next one."

For much of the game, the Bruins had played well enough. They led with just over five minutes left.

But after a string of Colorado free throws and a momentum-shifting alley-oop, the old gym was getting loud. UCLA needed a final spark.

Powell hit a difficult three-pointer, and then Bryce Alford forced a turnover on the inbounds pass. Suddenly, the Bruins were down four, with the ball, with 35 seconds left.

Alford drove into the lane. He took a shot — his 16th of the night. It hit iron.