Sometimes playing good is not good enough.
Arizona played good defense for 33 seconds nine times in the game and UCLA made great shots on all those occasions as the shot clock buzzer sounded. In fact, the Bruins were so fortuitous they even had players who normally couldn't hit water if they fell out of boat making shots as the horns were sounding.
I wish I was kidding.
UCLA hit three straight three-pointers as the shot clock horn sounded when the game was still in doubt. Michael Rolle made two of those big shots. The first at the 4:10 mark to extend the lead to 71-59. The second came a minute later, making the score 74-61. With 2:15 on the clock, Luc Richard M'bah a Moute nailed his buzzer beater to put the Bruins up by 14.
What are you supposed to do as a defender at that point? Arizona had a hand in the face on all three shots. Rolle's second three was launched from 22-feet. Again, what are you supposed to do? Punch the shooter in the face? Pants the guy?
Making matters worse was the fact that a majority of the desperation shot attempts were from behind the arc – six to be exact. Earlier in the second half, Darren Collison added two threes at the buzzer while the most ridiculous bucket of the game came in the first half by Arron Afflalo.
After Afflalo lost the ball and then shoved the Arizona defender aside in order to retrieve it, Afflalo double pumped from 27-feet out and drained a three right in front of the Arizona bench. His body gyrated so much he looked like a Dolphin hovering on the water's surface, but the ball went in so…whatever.
Arizona used a 7-0 run to close out the half and headed into the locker room trailing 35-34. In an opening 20 minutes defined by mini-runs, Arizona's was a fitting finish to a well played half by both teams.
UCLA made two early three-pointers after the intermission to continue their hot shooting for the game. The Bruins opened a 57-50 lead on steady play and good defense. With 7:00 to go, Collison drained another three (he made five in all) as the shot clock horn sounded to push the lead to 10. Mustafa Shakur was there and had a hand in Collison's face but it simply wasn't meant to be for the Wildcats today.
From there, the buzzer beater barrage was on and the Wildcats had no chance.
If you do the math, UCLA made six threes on these wild shots. That's 18 points. Add six points to that total from the other three shots and that's 24 points UCLA might not have scored. Arizona wound up losing by 15. Again, do the math.
Am I complaining? It may seem that way but the answer is no. I'm simply pointing out that if you look at the final score and then watch the game you won't see a 15 point blowout. You'll see a hard fought game by both teams on both the offensive and defensive ends where the efforts put forth don't equate to the production.
For Arizona, the players must keep their heads up and live to fight another day.
Arizona has now lost five home games for the first time in 20 years. They've now been swept by three Pac-10 foes (UCLA, USC and Washington State). If there's a ray of sunshine in all of this, it's that Arizona won't play another game in Tucson the rest of the season. They visit Arizona State next week and then end conference play in the Bay Area.
Maybe along the way they'll reunite with Lady Luck. We can only hope so.