Arizona was able to come from behind to beat the Bruins on Friday night. Read on to find out how it happened, who the player of the game was, and more.
Arizona had to battle back from a second half deficit to beat UCLA 70-64 on Friday night. Here’s a closer look at what happened:
Arizona Player of the Game:
Brandon Ashley – What a game by the power forward. Ashley finished with a career-high and game-high 24 points, hitting 9 of his 11 shots on the evening. The junior added seven rebounds on the night, none bigger than his final one of the night, which set him up with the final two free throws that sealed the game.
At times, it seemed like Ashley was the only player who could do anything for the Wildcats and to their credit, they kept going back to him and he carried them onto the Pac-12 Tournament Championship game.
Arizona jumped out to a hot start, hitting three of its first five shots, with two coming from downtown. The Wildcats got an early 11-2 lead in the first four minutes of the game. During that four minutes, two of UCLA’s starters, Isaac Hamilton and Tony Parker, each picked up two personal fouls and were forced to the bench.
The foul trouble may have helped UCLA as the Bruins turned to a zone defense and held the Wildcats scoreless for over four minutes. During that time, UCLA was able to climb back in the game, cutting the lead down to 11-10 with ten minutes to go in the first half.
With just five minutes left in the first half, Brandon Ashley made a layup in the lane and drew a foul. It was the third foul on Parker, taking him out of the game for the remainder of the half. Ashley missed the free throw, but Arizona got a three from Stanley Johnson and a jumper from Ashley to take the lead back on a 7-0 mini run.
UCLA came out of the locker room with a hot hand. The Bruins scored quickly, jumping out to a 38-33 lead and holding it for several minutes. UCLA attacked the center of Arizona’s offense relentlessly, getting just about anything it wanted in the paint.
The Wildcats roared back, retaking the lead with a 13-0 run that was capped off by a huge Gabe York three ball. Ashley led the charge with a tip in and long jumper, but he also grabbed several rebounds, played solid defense, and set a key screen that let T.J. McConnell get into the lane for an easy layup.
With just under four minutes left in the game, Arizona held a 57-53 lead when Hamilton fouled out of the game, smacking Kaleb Tarczewski’s arm on a dunk attempt. He left the game with six points, but it forced UCLA to go back to the bench to find a replacement. Moments later, Tarczewski was whistled for his fifth foul, making him leave the game as well.
With Arizona leading 63-61, the Wildcat took the ball with a minute remaining in the game. Johnson hit a three pointer that looked like it would seal the game, but Kevon Looney came down the court and answered it with just 19 seconds remaining in the game.
McConnell was fouled immediately and hit both free throws to put the Wildcats up by four. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson blocked Norman Powell’s three-point attempt and Ashley hit two more free throws to seal the win.
Stats of the Night:
2 - After having seven turnovers in the first half, Arizona turned the ball over just twice in the entire second half, allowing it to come from behind to beat UCLA. Additionally. T.J. McConnell had four turnovers and four assists in the first half of the game, but turned his night around with six assists and just a single turnover in the second half.
A lot can be made about the way that Arizona played in the game, but the fact of the matter is that the Wildcats came out of with a win and that is all that matters once the regular season ends. Anyone can get hot any night and anyone can have a bad game any night. Just look at Isaac Hamilton, who had a career day one game and fouled out with just six points in the next.
Arizona found a way to dig deep and won the game, that is all that matters. Survive and advance and that’s just what the Wildcats did.
That being said, Arizona struggled mightily at times against the zone defense that UCLA employed. The Wildcats are almost guaranteed to see that again in the next few games. If anything, this was beneficial for Arizona to see and get a feel for just before the big dance.
York and McConnell broke the zone with some outside shots and Ashley did more of the same with his interior presence at the free throw line. If the Wildcats can move the ball and find good shots against the zone, they will do just fine.
Lastly, my hat is off to Stanley Johnson and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson for what they did defensively down the stretch. Johnson has come so far on the defensive side of the ball since he first arrived at Arizona and I'm still trying to figure out how Hollis-Jefferson doesn't have a Defensive Player of the Year award in his trophy case. Both of them were so big for Arizona during the comeback and the Wildcats couldn't have done it without them.
Sean Miller Quotable:
"So very, very proud of this group," Miller said. "Having said that, we've been in a championship game four times in the last five years. And you don't have to ask me how it feels because we haven't won it. We know that."
"We were down 47-40, and we all just said we have to dig deep for this one, whatever heart you have, you have to give more," McConnell said. "And we went on a run, and our fans were behind us. You could say last year we didn't get over that hump, but today we did."