UCLA vs. Liberty score: Bruins' meltdown continues with blowout loss at home

Jayne Kamin-Oncea / USA TODAY Sports

UCLA hit a new low on Saturday during a season that has been filled with them, falling 73-58 to Liberty on its home floor. It's the Bruins' fourth consecutive loss in a string of disappointing performances, dropping them to 7-6 on the season as they prepare for Pac-12 play next Thursday.

This is not going to quiet the malaise that continues to emanate from Los Angeles about the job security of coach Steve Alford. Alford last week following a loss to Ohio State deflected questions of unease about his employment as the Bruins coach, but it's become too loud to ignore. Adding to the mess, this loss tops a previous most embarrassing moment of the season which came just two weeks ago in a home loss to Belmont, 74-72.

Liberty is good, to be clear. The Flames played a clean game and should be considered a top-two team in the Atlantic Sun. But there is a pecking order in college basketball, and UCLA is -- or at least should be -- multiple rungs up the ladder from Liberty.

Yet it is not.

The Bruins simply are not clicking, and talent is not the issue. Their most-used lineup over the last five games, according to KenPom, features top-50 recruits at every single position-- from point guard Jaylen Hands, to center Moses Brown, a former five-star recruit and fabulous freshman. The parts are good. The sum of the parts, however, has been abysmal.

And abysmal is precisely the word that fits how UCLA looked on Saturday. It turned the ball over 24 times to Liberty's eight, missed 16 of its 22 3-point attempts, and got outscored in the paint 34-28 despite bringing down 17 more rebounds on the evening.

UCLA begins conference play next Thursday against Stanford, but is there any optimism that things will turn around? The Bruins put up a good fight against Ohio State last week, but it feels like it was a one-off based on how it has fared in its three previous losses in December -- including a 29-point beatdown at the hands of Cincinnati.

Perhaps UCLA can right the ship, secure an NCAA Tournament bid and figure things out on the fly, but the league's horrendous nonconference showing -- and UCLA is no different -- almost guarantees the Bruins need to secure the autobid by winning the postseason tournament to get there.

And even then, will that be enough to keep Alford's seat cool? It's impossible to predict, but the Flames, unironically, only heated his bench up higher on Saturday.

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