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UCLA's Alford: No bad blood with Arizona's Miller

Ben Bolch, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Basketball

LOS ANGELES--The pettiness was apparently left in Las Vegas.

UCLA coach Steve Alford said Tuesday that he spoke with Arizona coach Sean Miller to clear the air after the Wildcats coach called what appeared to be a tit-for-tat timeout during the Pac-12 Conference tournament last season with his team leading the Bruins by 11 points and only nine-tenths of a second to play.

Miller was thought to be mad because Alford called a timeout with one second left while holding a five-point advantage during the Bruins' victory over the Wildcats two weeks earlier in Tucson.

Alford didn't realize his timeout had angered anyone until he walked toward midcourt for postgame handshakes during the Pac-12 tournament only to watch the Wildcats delay the exchange with a timeout. The coaches swapped perfunctory handshakes a few moments later.

"I think we learned from UCLA in that (previous) game (it's) just making sure your team is poised moving forward," Miller said dryly afterward. "When they called their timeout late, we wanted to do the same thing. Make sure our team was poised moving forward."

Alford said he didn't mean any harm with his timeout and told Miller.

"I think he thought that I was doing something disrespectful in Tucson and I wasn't," Alford said. "As I told him, it was respect for his program because we hadn't won down there and I didn't want anything goofy happening, so that was all taken care of and he understood that and I don't think he meant any disrespect my way either.

"We have a mutual respect and I know from my end I have a great respect in him as a coach and them as a program."

Should UCLA hold a safe lead over No. 13 Arizona in the final seconds Thursday night at McKale Center, don't expect another timeout.

"No, no, no, no, no, no," Alford said when asked whether there would be further retaliation.

Strategy session

To foul or not to foul with a three-point lead in the final seconds?

That has twice been the question confronting Alford, who has opted to force opponents to take a three-point shot to tie the score rather than foul and turn the rest of the game into a battle of free throws.

UCLA has had mixed success employing Alford's strategy. The Bruins declined to foul while holding a three-point lead in the final seconds of regulation against Stanford, only to watch guard Dorian Pickens make a three-point basket that forced overtime and led to a UCLA loss in double overtime.

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The results were more pleasing for the Bruins on Saturday when their three-point lead with 11 seconds left withstood three-pointers by USC's Jordan McLaughlin and Jordan Usher that were off the mark.

"Eleven seconds (left), I'd never foul," Alford said Tuesday. "Too many things can happen in 11 seconds; you foul with 11 seconds on the clock, then you gotta get the ball inbounds. You're gonna get fouled, you have to make more free throws and now you're doing it again.

"If it's inside five seconds then you think about (fouling), but 11 seconds, I would never think about it. We gotta guard."

That's the point

The Bruins can breathe a little easier about their point guard situation for next season. Should junior Aaron Holiday and freshman Jaylen Hands declare for the NBA draft, they will apparently still have someone capable of distributing the ball.

His name is Tyger Campbell and he announced on Twitter on Tuesday that he would attend UCLA.

The 6-foot, 165-pound recruit reclassified this season to become a senior at La Lumiere High in La Porte, Ind., and is listed as the 13th-best point guard in the nation according to 247Sports.com.

Campbell initially committed to DePaul, which had hired his high school coach as an assistant under Dave Leitao.

He also considered Purdue and Maryland.

(c)2018 Los Angeles Times

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