Arizona: Dose of Reality

If UCLA was getting a little cocky with its 5-0 Pac-10 record, it came back to reality Saturday when a superior Arizona team routed them at Pauley Pavilion, 97-72...

If there is still any debate among UCLA fans about the talent on this Bruin team, Arizona showed us what a talented team looked like Saturday.

It thoroughly out-classed UCLA, routing the upstart Bruins, 97-72, in front of a sold out crowd at Pauley Pavilion.

Arizona is thoroughly more talented than UCLA and, more significantly, more athletic and quick. The slower Bruins couldn't keep up with the quicker Wildcats, either on offense or defense. And on top of their quickness, they're all pretty darn skilled, too.

You have to concede that Arizona looked quite a bit different against UCLA than they did just a few days ago losing to USC. They've had a problem focusing in their games, and struggled to do so against USC. Against UCLA, however, they were focused for close to 40 minutes. They shot 41% against USC and 54% against UCLA. Hassan Adams, for example, struggled to make a lay-up against USC, scoring just 11 points, but could throw the ball through the hoop blind-folded against UCLA, racking up 23. Against USC, Adams, Channing Frye and Salim Stoudamire had a total of 42 points. Against UCLA the three scored 23, 26 and 25, for a total of 74 points.

So, there was an element here that Arizona was focused, and on fire.

But the difference in this game was primarily the difference in talent. Arizona has probably at least four future NBA players. Their superior quickness, when inspired like they were, allowed them to play good defense against UCLA. On the offensive side, Arizona has guys who are quick laterally and can break down defenders. UCLA, on the other hand, has no one who on offense is quick enough to break down a quick defender, and defensively can't stay with the Wildcats ability to take you off the dribble. And, as we said in the preview, Channing Frye was UCLA's first brush with playing against a legit, NBA-caliber center, and readily showed the difference in talent and development level. With Arizona's quickness, and ability to convert inside with Frye, UCLA's defender were often times too slow to get to Arizona's shooters. If you leave Salim Stoudamire open enough times, he's going to kill you, as he did. But it's just not Stoudamire, but Arizona has shooters in Adams, Shakur and Chris Rodgers.

Then, in addition, the Wildcats are tough, led by the warrior of a player, Hassan Adams.

That's what talent is: quickness, toughness and the ability to shoot. When you have that, and you have that in four or five players, you have the makings of a Final Four team.

Arizona played a zone defense for much of the game, which was smart for many reasons. First, Arizona isn't deep, only able to use seven players, so it kept them out of foul trouble. Secondly, it challenged UCLA to shoot from the outside to break the zone and, without its best outside shooter, Brian Morrison, they're going to struggle to do that. UCLA also has very little inside scoring ability, so Arizona was able to fudge a bit and extend their zone, to get one more step up on UCLA's shooters. No matter what, though, if you're trying to beat a team by shooting over their zone, odds are against you, even if you're a great shooting team. Arizona's half-court offense works so well because it goes inside and outside. Without Frye (which hopefully will be the case next year when Frye possibly foregoes his senior season and goes to the NBA), this Arizona team would be completely different and easier to defend. In fact, it would be more like UCLA.

Brian Morrison has been missed since he's been out, but not moreso than in this game. Not only would his outside shooting have really helped the Bruins, but Morrison is probably the best at being able to create off the dribble on the team, along with Trevor Ariza, and has good foot speed on defense.

There were actually some positive take-aways from this game. Really.

-- There hadn't been that kind of big-game energy and electricity in Pauley in a while.

-- It completely laid out in plain site just what the new coaching staff has to work with, when juxtaposing UCLA's personnel to that of a elite, talented team.

-- If for any reason UCLA was getting a little cocky or complacent after starting its Pac-10 season 5-0, this should humble them. This should give them a good dose of reality, and make them realize that they're not good enough to coast against any future opponent and they have to be focused and play hard for every game.

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