No. 13 Arizona falls behind early, loses to visiting UCLA
TUCSON, Ariz. — UCLA pushed around the Arizona Wildcats on their home court, swarming on defense and attacking on offense.
A win like this, against a ranked team in one of college basketball’s toughest venues, could push the Bruins off the NCAA Tournament bubble.
Aaron Holiday scored 17 points, Gyorgy Golomon added a career-high 16 and UCLA shot its way past No. 13 Arizona, 82-74 on Thursday night.
“This is huge for us,” said Holiday, who had eight assists. “We want to get into the NCAA Tournament and it’s a big win for that aspect.”
UCLA (17-7, 8-4 Pac-12) attacked from the start, repeatedly getting to the rim, opening up shots at the perimeter. The Bruins shot 52 percent from the floor and were 11 of 24 from the 3-point arc to win for the third time in their past five games at McKale Center.
“It’s a huge road win in the country,” UCLA coach Steve Alford said. “This is a top-20 team, they’ve been top 10, so this is huge for us.”
Arizona (19-6, 9-3 Pac-12) started slow on offense and labored on defense all night to have its 12-game home winning streak end.
Allonzo Trier led Arizona with 17 points, and Deandre Ayton added 16 points and 12 rebounds.
“We’re a much better offensive team than defense. That’s the truth,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said. “I think the gap has never been bigger and it’s up to us to continue to work.”
Arizona lost a heartbreaker to Washington on Saturday, when Ayton blocked a shot in the closing seconds and the ball ended up in the hands up Dominic Green, who nailed a buzzer-beating 3-pointer in the Huskies’ 78-75 victory.
Despite a tumultuous beginning of the season in China and a slow start in the Pac-12, UCLA still has a shot at winning the conference title and has moved into the NCAA Tournament picture. The Bruins have won four straight and moved within one game of the Pac 12-leading Wildcats.
UCLA gave Arizona trouble with its extended zone early, forcing the Wildcats into taking jump shots. They had a hard time getting any to fall, opening the game 1 for 9.
Arizona started getting the ball inside and making shots, going on a 9-0 run to get back into the game.
It went back and forth from there until Jaylen Hands — you guessed it — got the hot hand.
UCLA’s freshman guard hit a trio of 3-pointers in the final 54 seconds, including a long one at the buzzer, to put the Bruins up 44-34.
“That cushion at the break, we didn’t have our confidence from that point on,” Miller said.
Arizona made a quick push to open the second half, but UCLA, just as it did in the first, kept beating the Wildcats off the dribble and knocking down 3s to stretch the lead 12.
The Bruins scored six straight points to push the lead to 66-51 midway through the second half.
UCLA held off every Arizona charge after that, going up 82-67 on consecutive 3-pointers by Kris Wilkes and Goloman.
UCLA played a superb game at both ends to get a signature win.
Arizona had one of its worst defensive performances since losing three straight games in the Bahamas and struggled against UCLA’s zone, two recurring issues.
Hands’ contribution went beyond his personal 9-0 scoring streak at the end of the first half. He helped move the ball around the perimeter in UCLA’s offense and hounded Arizona point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright, one of the nation’s best at taking care of the ball, into three turnovers.
“I thought he had a solid game,” Alford said. “He played like a vet tonight and we needed him to do that.”
Holiday has arguably been UCLA’s best player all season and certainly was Thursday night.
The junior guard made 7 of 15 shots, distributed the ball and harassed Trier all night. Trier, one of the best at drawing free throws, had trouble getting into the lane against Holiday and did not attempt a free throw.
“He dominated the game,” Miller said. “Pretty much had his way, took what he wanted. Anything our defense did, he made right, good decisions.”
UCLA plays at Arizona State on Saturday.
Arizona faces Southern California on Saturday with the Pac-12 lead potentially on the line.