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UCLA basketball suspensions test depth, bench

By in Press Enterprise on November 16, 2017

By Thuc Nhi Nguyen

LOS ANGELES — Hours after LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill publicly apologized for shoplifting in Hangzhou, China last weekend, the UCLA men’s basketball team moved on without the three freshmen, who are suspended indefinitely.

UCLA opened its home schedule Wednesday night with a 106-101 overtime win against Central Arkansas, devoid of the depth head coach Steve Alford trumpeted as the best he’s ever had during his UCLA tenure.

Alford was hoping to use a long rotation to “wear some people down,” the coach said after UCLA’s exhibition game against Cal State Los Angeles on Nov. 1, but with nearly half of its freshman class unable to attend any team activities as of Wednesday, the Bruins were again reduced to an eight-man rotation, the same depth they used last year.

“At the end of the day, we’re all brothers and we’re going to have each other’s backs no matter what happens,” junior guard Aaron Holiday said. “It brought us together, we lost three players and we have to grow as a team.”

The Bruins, who were also without the trio in their season opener last week, had six players average more than 25 minutes per game last year. Against Georgia Tech, five players passed that mark, with the next closest, sixth-man guard Prince Ali, playing 20. Center Thomas Welsh led the team with 37 minutes against the Yellow Jackets.

On Wednesday against Central Arkansas, Alford brought Ali and freshman Chris Smith off the bench first. Smith played only eight minutes in his college debut in China, with a single defensive rebound and one turnover, but finished with six points and six rebounds in an active 12 minutes Wednesday. Holiday led the team with 43 minutes in the overtime victory.

Alford was expecting the deep bench to help the Bruins on defense, but even short-handed, […]    

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