The Bruins extended their conference winning streak to seven games while handing Arizona is third loss in a row. Arizona led 62-58 with just under four minutes to play, only to see UCLA score 10 unanswered points to win going away 69-64.
Arizona failed to execute in the clutch against the Bruins, a common occurrence for this year’s Wildcats. Following a dunk by Zeke Nnaji off a Nico Mannion assist with 3:45 to play, Arizona didn’t score again until two seconds remaining as UCLA completely dominated the final minutes of action.
UCLA (19-11, 12-5 Pac-12) is peaking at the right time of the season, while Arizona is fledgling.
Following Nnaji’s dunk to put Arizona up 62-58, the Bruins went on a 10-0 run to gain control and seal the victory. The Wildcats committed three turnovers in the closing minutes and didn’t score a single point until a layup by Christian Koloko with two seconds to play.
Arizona (19-10, 9-7 Pac-12) led by six points at halftime, but was outscored by the Bruins 42-31 after intermission. The Bruins, who only shot 23.1 percent from the floor in the first frame, knocked down 11-of-25 shots in the second half, while sinking 16-of-20 free throws.
Overall, UCLA was 29-for-38 from the charity stripe. Arizona was just 10-for-16 for the game and a stunning 1-for-4 in the second half.
The Bruins rallied late, getting back-to-back scores by Chris Smith to even the score at 62-62. Arizona’s Dylan Smith then stepped out of bounds on a dribble drive, giving the ball back to UCLA. The Bruins would answer again, this time on floater by Tyger Campbell to lead 64-62 with 49 seconds remaining. On Arizona’s ensuing possession, Max Hazzard dribbled the ball off his foot for Arizona’s third turnover in a 90-second stretch. UCLA’s Jalen Hill would then sink two free throws for a 66-62 advantage. The Wildcats would get a look at a 3-Pointer, but Stone Gettings’ attempt would fall short.
Chris Smith led UCLA with 17 points. His consecutive makes to even the score at 62-62 with 1:20 to go were the type of big baskets this Arizona team can only dream of right now. Bruins point guard Tyge Campbell was just 1-for-10 shooting for the game, but his go ahead bucket with 49 seconds left was another one of those clutch baskets that are absent in Arizona’s repertoire. Cambell overcame a rough shooting night by dishing out eight assists and not committing a single turnover.
For Arizona, Nico Mannion led all scorers with 19 points on 6-of-13 shooting. The true freshmen also had six assists and just one turnover. Zeke Nnaji added 16 points.
How UCLA Won?
Big baskets and solid defense in the clutch. Meanwhile, Arizona again looked solid for about 35 minutes, but let yet another winnable game slip away in the final minutes of action. UCLA’s bench outscored Arizona’s 39-17, while the Bruins made 13 more free throws than Arizona even attempted.
The officiating was horrid. With 12:20 to play in the second half, Arizona’s Sean Miller picked up his second technical foul following a horrendous offensive foul call on Christian Koloko. On the play, a wide open Koloko was flashing to an open spot in the paint when a Bruin literally ran into the already extended arm and hand of Koloko. The foul set Miller off, and rightfully so.
Why this is tonight’s X Factor Moment is Miller’s ejection seemed to light a fire under the Wildcats as Arizona quickly went on a 5-0 scoring run. Arizona would sustain a high level of play, highlighted by a nifty pass from Mannion to Nnaji for a slam dunk and a 62-58 lead with 3:45 left. However, in typical fashion for this year’s Wildcats, the final minutes of regulation were too much to handle as Arizona resorted to turnovers, missed open shots, and communication breakdowns on defense that not only gave UCLA life but allowed the Bruins to go on their late-game 10-0 run to win at home.
Player of the Game
UCLA’s Chris Smith was just 5-for-15 shooting on the night, but he wanted the basketball in the clutch. Meanwhile, Arizona’s Mannion was by far the best player on the floor on Saturday, yet was a non-factor late thanks to silly turnovers by Gettings, Smith and Hazzard. The easy nod goes to Smith.
Stat of the Game
Arizona was whistled for 27 fouls and two technicals. Dylan Smith fouled out, while fellow starters Nnaji and Gettings each got their fourth foul with over eight minutes to play. The free throw disparity was massive. UCLA was 29-for-38 from the foul line, while Arizona made 10-of-16 attempts. In the second half alone, Arizona was only 1-for-4 from the line while UCLA made 16-of-20.
Arizona hosts Washington State on Thursday, March 5. Tip time is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. MST. The game will be televised on Fox Sports 1.