UCLA

UCLA players say not all of the team is on the same page after 79-70 loss to Stanford

By the time UCLA's locker room doors swung open late Saturday afternoon, the Stanford band had finished its postgame set. The fans had filed out. Workers were using leaf blowers to clean up hot dog wrappers and ticket stubs.

UCLA took a long time to digest its 79-70 loss to Stanford.

Among the sobering facts was this: UCLA (15-14, 6-10 Pac-12) is now alone in 10th place in the conference. For just the fourth time since 1948-49, when John Wooden became UCLA's coach, UCLA will finish with a losing Pac-12 record.

When the locker room opened, and point guard Bryce Alford stepped into the hallway, a leaf blower screamed from an alcove nearby. Detritus sprayed down.

"The team," Alford said through the din, "is kind of a lost cause right now."

UCLA's once-promising season has swirled into frustration. By early January, the Bruins had earned wins over Kentucky, Gonzaga and Arizona. They've lost eight of 13 games since.

With its hopes for an at-large bid on life support, UCLA lost both games in its trip to California and Stanford. It probably must win the Pac-12 tournament to qualify for the NCAA tournament.

Before then, more pressing issues beckon. For the first time this season, two players offered an explanation for UCLA's inconsistency. Members of the team, Alford and center Thomas Welsh said, are not all on the same page.

The losing, Alford said, "is hard, it's very, very hard. Especially knowing that I'm supposed to be one of the leaders, if not the leader, of this team. Just some of the guys aren't fully there, fully following what we've got to do."

Said Welsh: "At the end of the day it's not about individuals, how well you're doing specifically or how well you're shooting the ball or anything like that. Because you can not be shooting the ball well and just keep getting shots up and just hurt the team that way and make everything that much worse."

This is unusual territory for UCLA. The program has finished with a losing record overall just three times since Wooden took over, all in the last 15 seasons. UCLA needs at least one win in its final two games to avoid a losing regular-season record.

Partially, Welsh said, the team's frustration has stemmed from its failure to live up to UCLA's tradition.

"Know where we're at, man," Alford put it. "We're at UCLA."

In the first half Saturday, UCLA climbed out of an early hole to pull within one point of the lead at halftime.

After a miserable shooting performance against California on Thursday, UCLA's form returned. Alford made six of 12 three-pointers and led UCLA with 20 points. Guard Isaac Hamilton scored 19.

But the Bruins had no answers for Stanford's offense. The Cardinal ranks last in the Pac-12 in scoring offense and three-point percentage. It made seven of 15 three-pointers and scored 79 points.

Stanford shot 61% overall. Forward Michael Humphrey made 12 of 14 shots for a game-high 24 points. Rosco Allen added 19, and Dorian Pickens scored 16 points.

"We thought if we could take two of those three out, we'd have a tremendous opportunity of winning," UCLA Coach Steve Alford said. "And we didn't take any of the three out."

Still, UCLA trailed by two points with six minutes remaining. Then its offense dried up. Forward Tony Parker missed his final six free-throw attempts. Stanford went on a 14-2 run.

After the long postgame rumination, one reporter asked Steve Alford what he told the team, in general.

"Well, we told them a lot of things, in general," he said.

UCLA next

Wednesday vs. Oregon, 6 p.m., Pauley Pavilion, ESPN2 — The Ducks won the teams' first meeting this season, 86-72. If the Bruins are to carry any momentum into the Pac-12 tournament, beating Oregon would be a good start.

Follow Zach Helfand on Twitter @zhelfand

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
A version of this article appeared in print on February 28, 2016, in the Sports section of the Los Angeles Times with the headline "Bruins say players are not on the same page - UCLA is 10th in the Pac-12 and will finish conference play with a losing record. - STANFORD 79 UCLA 70" — Today's paperToday's paper | Subscribe
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