Arizona came up just short in its bid for the Pac-12 Championship, but fought hard in the loss. Read on to find out who Arizona's player of the game was, what the key plays were, and more.
won the Pac-12 Championship 75-71 with several key plays late in the game. Arizona
played a hard fought game, but could not come up with the win in the end. Here's an analysis of what happened:
Arizona Player of the Game:
Nick Johnson – It was a great effort from the junior, but he couldn't do it all down the stretch in the loss. Johnson missed a crucial front end of a one-and-one that would have given Arizona the lead with two minutes remaining. However, Johnson kept the Wildcats in the game with 22 points, five rebounds, three great blocks, and a steal.
UCLA got off to a hot start. Norman Powell had five quick points and the Wildcats got into a nine-point hole early at the first media timeout, trailing 12-3. The Bruins continued to pull away, going on a 12-0 run before Elliott Pitts stopped the bleeding with a three-ball.
Arizona fought back, cutting the UCLA lead to just five on an Aaron Gordon jumper at the free throw line. The Bruins responded almost immediately, getting into traffic as Jordan Adams found Norman Powell for a three-pointer.
Kaleb Tarczewski did everything he could to get his team back in the game. With six minutes left in the first half, the center had a dunk and a short jumper off the glass to cut the UCLA lead to just four. It wasn't much longer until the lead dwindled even more as Gordon found Nick Johnson for an alley-oop dunk in transition to put the Bruins' lead at 33-31.
Arizona used a 7-2 run early in the second half to take the lead for the first time since the early moments of the game. The lead was immediately taken back by UCLA on a Tony Parker put back. The game was tight, but the Wildcats could not quite pull away as Aaron Gordon missed three of four free-throws during a thirty second stretch with 14 minutes to go in the game.
The Bruins took the lead back, but the Wildcats were able to cut the lead back to just two thanks to a Gabe York breakaway dunk and a Nick Johnson free-throw with ten minutes left on the clock. David Wear hit a quick jumper, but Johnson answered with an even quicker three-pointer to put the UCLA lead at 59-58.
Trailing by just one, T.J. McConnell found Johnson for a contested three-pointer, giving the Wildcats a 64-62 lead. Johnson had slowly started to turn on his offensive game and it was showing as he drained his 19th point.
With just 2:30 left in a tie ball game, Johnson was stripped of the ball and Travis Wear dove for the ball, sliding several feet on the floor before calling timeout. UCLA came out of the timeout and missed an easy shot. Johnson was fouled on the other end and missed the first of a one-and-one free throw situation.
That led to a series of turnovers by both teams trying to do too much, leaving UCLA with the ball and 53 seconds remaining on the clock.
Coming out of a timeout, Jordan Adams took a hard cut off a screen and drilled a three pointer, giving the Bruins a three-point lead with less than a minute to go. Arizona called a timeout, but eventually came up with a bad three-point attempt by Gordon. UCLA hit free throws over the next twenty seconds and held on to win the game.
Stats of the Game:
37: Arizona shot 37-percent from the free throw line in the Pac-12 Championship game. The Wildcats only hit six of their sixteen free throws with Aaron Gordon missing six of his own eight free throws. It was crucial to the loss as Arizona only hit three of ten free throws in the second half.
Arizona played a good game overall and my hat is off to the Wildcats being able to score 71 points and keep up with a very high scoring UCLA team. Both teams had chances to win it down the stretch, but playing the third game in as many games finally took its toll. Several shots looked short in the second half and the Wildcats couldn't find the basket enough in the final minutes.
The main reason that Arizona lost the game in the final minutes was the offense. Aaron Gordon made a layup to take the lead with five minutes left in the game and the Wildcats did not score again until Nick Johnson made a three-pointer with two seconds left. UCLA scored seven points in that span and put the game away.
Other than free throws and the late game offense, the Wildcats played a phenomenal game all around. The defense was great, but UCLA is just a dominant team offensively. There won't be many other teams in the country that can play the way UCLA did against Arizona moving forward.
If the Wildcats can learn from this loss and continue to play the great basketball that it has been playing, they will be Final Four bound.
Sean Miller Quotable:
""Well, I thought that was a great game," Miller said. "Players sometimes talk about that's a man's game. That was. There were some great players out there."
"We've been rolling pretty much on defense these last few games and they came out and punched us in the mouth," Johnson said.