UCLA basketball Coach Steve Alford said he feels his team is ready to begin Pac-12 Conference play Sunday against city rival USC.

One thing that makes him very happy, Alford said, is that the Bruins' first three league games -- against the Trojans, top-ranked Arizona and well-regarded Arizona State -- will be at Pauley Pavilion.

"At least we open at home," Alford said on the season's first Pac-12 teleconference Monday. "We're pretty healthy, we've played well at home, I hope we're ready to start the Pac-12 well."

Alford said he's been happy that the team has responded each week as he's introduced new areas where he wanted it to improve.

"The guys have done a good job of getting better," he said.

In the team's two losses -- at Missouri and to Duke at Madison Square Garden -- he felt the Bruins played badly for 10 minutes in each game and that those 20 minutes may have prevented the Bruins from starting the season 13-0 instead of 11-2.

He said he's pleased with the team's lack of turnovers and willingness to make assists. He also had praise for freshman Zach LaVine. "He's been tremendous," Alford said. "He creates his own shot, he's great in transition and he's getting better and better defensively."

Alford was also asked about sophomore center Tony Parker. "Tony's a lot like the rest of the guys. He continues to mature," Alford said. "If that keeps happening we have a chance to turn into a really good basketball team. He's still learning, and we're seeing strides offensively and defensively each and every game out of him. He's doing a great job for us."

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