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UCLA takes itself down a losing path in opener against Monmouth

UCLA takes itself down a losing path in opener against Monmouth
CoachSteve Alford and point guard Bryce Alford, shown during a game last year, opened the season with a loss to Monmouth on Friday night. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images)

In all the stress and shock of the final minutes of UCLA's season opener, Tony Parker, watching from the bench, twisted his uniform into a thin roll, until the bottom hung near his shoulders. Nearby, after the final shot, Thomas Welsh hunched over near the paint. Bryce Alford began to walk off the floor in disbelief.

The astonishment at Pauley Pavilion was understandable. UCLA wasted a 13-point second-half lead, then a five-point overtime lead, to lose a stunner to Monmouth, 84-81, on Friday.

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"I'm pretty disgusted," Bryce Alford said.

Added UCLA Coach Steve Alford: "We've got to figure out how we can get average before we can take a step toward being good. Because we're bad right now."

What went wrong? In the postgame news conference, Parker didn't look up from the ground for a full minute. Bryce Alford harrumphed. They both agreed on the cause: turnovers.

The Bruins had 23 giveaways. Monmouth had seven. Steve Alford said it was the worst ballhandling he's seen at UCLA. They turned the ball over in creative, novel ways.

"I mean, Isaac [Hamilton] got ripped once, I got ripped once, pretty sure Aaron [Holiday] got ripped once," Bryce Alford said.

"That doesn't happen. That should never happen. We had guys running into each other, balls going off our knees out of bounds, passing the ball to nobody."

Steve Alford was blunt.

"Our guard play was atrocious," he said, adding, "Just passing the ball and dribbling the ball to your opponent makes no sense."

After one particularly absented-minded first-half turnover, Hamilton grimaced and delivered a few smacks to his head.

It didn't break the malaise, which persisted well into the second half.

However, about eight minutes in, an 11-0 run expanded a two-point Bruins lead into double-digits for the first time.

Then the Hawks stormed back.

With six minutes remaining, Monmouth mounted its own 11-0 run. A Micah Seaborn layup, keyed by — what else? — a UCLA turnover, gave the Hawks a 61-60 lead.

Steve Alford crouched near the bench and rubbed his temple.

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"You got a 13-point lead inside 10 minutes, you've got to finish the game," he said.

Bryce Alford brought the Bruins back from the brink by scoring 10 points in a row. On the 10th, a three-pointer, he skipped back on defense and turned to exhort the crowd. He led all scorers with 22 points. Parker added 19.

In overtime, up five with two minutes remaining, the Bruins self-destructed with fouls.

The Hawks outscored UCLA 9-2 in the final two minutes by making nine of 10 free throws.

UCLA dominated the glass and outrebounded Monmouth, 60-37. Parker alone took down 19 boards.

But with 18 seconds left, after a missed a layup, Collin Stewart, who led Monmouth with 19 points, pounced on the rebound, got fouled and made both free throws to give the Hawks the lead.

After two more free throws made the margin three points, Holiday tried a deep three-point shot as time expired. It hit the back of the rim, and Monmouth flooded the court in joy.

zach.helfand@latimes.com

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