Advertisement

UCLA will try to sign off on Stanford, Cal

Michigan fans wave miniature Chinese flags behind UCLA coach Steve Alford during a Dec. 9 game.
Michigan fans wave miniature Chinese flags behind UCLA coach Steve Alford during a Dec. 9 game.
(Tony Ding / Associated Press)

The signs could be everywhere.

Almost two weeks after the UCLA basketball team resolved its international shoplifting scandal by suspending Jalen Hill and Cody Riley for the rest of the season, reminders of the ordeal figure to be on display Thursday night in Stanford’s Maples Pavilion.

Stanford students probably haven’t forgotten about the players’ theft of items from an upscale mall in China before the Bruins’ season opener in November. They also probably won’t keep their thoughts on the matter to themselves when UCLA takes the court for warmups.

“If the fans are looking for something,” Bruins forward GG Goloman said this week, “that’s definitely something that they can grab onto and go after.”

Advertisement

The teasing figures to follow UCLA wherever it goes this season. When the Bruins traveled to face Michigan last month in Ann Arbor, the Michigan students wielded signs delivering playful jabs. No one seemed to care that Hill and Riley weren’t even there, or that LiAngelo Ball, who also admitted shoplifting with his teammates, had withdrawn from school.

One sign purported to list Ball’s career stats, noting that he had zero points, rebounds, assists or blocks but one steal. A second sign referenced Ball’s boisterous father, reading, “LaVar scored more than LiAngelo.” A third sign, alluding to LiAngelo and younger brother LaMelo signing with an agent, read, “UCLA has no Balls.”

It had to be more than a bit uncomfortable for UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero and senior associate athletic director Josh Rebholz, who were seated directly in front of students waving miniature Chinese flags.

“Other than warming up, I don’t think you notice that,” Bruins coach Steve Alford said of the signs. “I think what you notice is just the volume, and we’re not going to have that kind of volume at Stanford or Cal like we had at Michigan, so you may have a great crowd and all that stuff, but that stuff doesn’t affect these guys.”

Advertisement

Stanford (6-8 overall, 0-1 in Pac-12 Conference play) is averaging 4,131 fans for its home games, ranking 10th in the Pac-12. UCLA (11-3, 2-0) also figures to face a smallish crowd Saturday when it plays at California’s Haas Pavilion, where the Golden Bears (7-7, 1-0) are averaging 6,845 fans this season.

Given that Stanford and Cal were the only Pac-12 teams with losing records in nonconference play, the Bruins’ biggest challenge in the coming days might be ignoring irreverent fans.

“It’s something we’ll have to deal with,” UCLA guard Prince Ali said, “but we’re not going to pay too much attention to that. We’re trying to win basketball games.”

::

Advertisement

UCLA TONIGHT

VS. STANFORD

When: 7 p.m.

Where: Maples Pavilion, Palo Alto.

Advertisement

On the air: TV: FS1; Radio: 1150.

Update: UCLA (11-3 overall, 2-0 in Pac-12 Conference play) is vying for a fifth consecutive victory, which would be its longest streak of the season. Stanford (6-8, 0-1) has not been able to capitalize on the strong tandem of forwards Reid Travis and Michael Humphrey, who have combined to average 32.8 points and 16 rebounds per game. Like UCLA center Thomas Welsh, Travis has added a three-pointer to his offensive arsenal but has made only seven of 28 shots (25%) from beyond the arc. Stanford swingman Dorian Pickens scored 13 points Saturday in his return from a seven-week absence caused by a foot injury, but the Cardinal squandered a 17-point lead on their home court during a 77-74 loss to Cal. Stanford ranks last in the Pac-12 in scoring (72.9 points per game) and turnover margin, committing an average of 3.9 more turnovers per game than its opponents.

ben.bolch@latimes.com

Twitter: @latbbolch

Advertisement


Advertisement