9th ranked UCLA was cruising towards an easy win over the Arizona Wildcats this afternoon, with a 73-53 lead and 13 minutes to go. No, that's not a misprint.
Then the roof fell in. Plus, the walls, floor, fixtures and furniture tumbled as well. Arizona went on one of their storied streaks, the Bruins lost their poise, and the Wildcats outscored UCLA 43-13 over those final 13 minutes to wind up with a 96-86 victory. No, that's not a misprint either.
The Bruins played some of their best bb of the year for the first 27 minutes. Arizona started out in a 3-2 zone and UCLA shredded it, hitting their first 7 shots. Jason Kapono gunned in his first 3 3s, Billy hit his first 2, Ced hit 2, Matt hit 1 and Ryan Walcott joined in as well. The Bruins jumped out 11-0 and kept up the pressure, never allowing Arizona within 7 for the entire first half. Arizona switched to a man d midway through the first half, but it didn't help as UCLA ran its 1-4 very well. With everyone shooting the lights out, everything seemed to be going the Bruins' way, except for a number of really bad foul calls by the officials. But let us not whine about that.
Arizona cut a double-digit Bruin lead to 9 at 49-40 with about 2 minutes left, but the Bruins quickly went on a 7-0 run to take control of the game at 56-40. A late exchange ended the first half at 58-43, UCLA. The Bruins had executed their zone and man offenses extremely well, making only 5 turnovers and zinging in 12-19 3s. Almost all of their 3s were of the wide open variety. Arizona's short guards seemingly couldn't pressure the Bruins or keep up with them in the halfcourt. At the other end of the floor, Arizona made its share of unforced mistakes, and they shot about as well as could be expected against a 1-2-2 matchup zone.
The first 7 minutes of the second half continued in that vein, as UCLA stretched its lead out to 73-53. The only disturbing trends were Arizona's continuing ability to get its own portion of wide open looks at the basket, and more really unbelievable foul calls against the Bruins. At this stage of the game, UCLA had been called for 7 fouls, Arizona 0. Dan, Billy and Ced were all in foul trouble. But let's not whine about that.
Now, everything caved in for the Bruins, and everything went in for Arizona. The Wildcats bombed in 2 3s in about 30 seconds, cutting the lead to 14. A couple of TJ Cummings boo-boos later and Arizona was scoring in transition. Suddenly, in about a minute, Arizona was down by 9. Then it got worse for the Bruins. Dan came back in, made a clean block on Walton, but got called for his 5th foul anyway. But let's not whine about that. Basically, the route was on. Arizona was playing amped-up man d, UCLA simply lost its poise, Arizona turned every Bruin mistake into a basket at the other end, a lot of Arizona guys who shoot 20% from 3 were suddenly sinking 3s like they were Jason Kapono, and the Wildcats poured it in and on.
Lavin called several timeouts and put in fresh players. It didn't help. The Bruins played scared and weak and basically seemed to fold with about 10 minutes to go, even though the game was still tied. The Bruins made 8 turnovers in the first 13 minutes, 9 in the final 13. A crucial mark. Arizona finally took its first lead of the game at about the 6:30 point, and then they took a narrow lead that they clung to until 2 minutes to go. UCLA was down 90-86 and had a chance to cut the lead to 1, but Billy Knight, who missed his last 8 shots, missed a wide-open 3 from the corner and the Bruins were done. A lot of fouls and wild UCLA shots contributed to the final 10-point margin.
This is one of those games that leave a sour taste in your mouth if you're a fan or a coach, but the players will forget about it by Tuesday as they prepare for Stanford and Cal at Pauley. The Bruins should have won this game. With their veteran lineup, they should not have lost their poise and control of the tempo of the game like they did. Arizona is explosive in a run and gun game, and UCLA was able to prevent this contest from being a run and gun affair for 13 minutes. If they had been successful in controlling the tempo for 14 minutes, they would have won. It's as simple as that. Matt Barnes, Jason Kapono and Billy Knight need to regroup and rededicate themselves over the long weekend. This was one game where the Bruins probably really missed Rico Hines.
The Bruins were called for 24 fouls to Arizona's 13, even though Arizona seemed to be the much more physically aggressive team. Arizona was 22-28 from the FT line, compared to 9-13 for UCLA (the Bruins only shot 3 FTs in the entire 2nd half). The refs were not only awful, in typical Pac-10 fashion, but also their officiating definitely fell heavily in favor of one team over the other, a rare event. But let's not whine about that.
Jason scored 25 points, hitting 7-11 from 3, as he busted out of his slump in a big time fashion. He also added 8 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 steals in one of the best performances of his career. Matt got 20 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists in another in a series of powerful games. Billy started out 5-6, but wound up 5-14. Nonetheless, he finished with 15 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists. He was 5-10 from 3. Dan had 11 points and 5 rebounds in 18 minutes. He really needed some Big East officials today. If Dan plays 25 minutes, UCLA also wins this game. Ced Bozeman got 8 points in the first half, and 8 in the game. He also added 4 rebounds and 3 assists. He was credited with 4 turnovers, but 2 were off bogus offensive foul calls. But let's not whine about that.
Off the bench, Dijon Thompson gaveth and tooketh away. His 2 points and 3 rebounds were balanced by 2 awful turnovers. He needs to play with more poise, too. Andre Patterson apparently cut his finger loading his luggage before the game and needed stitches. He grabbed 2 rebounds. Ryan Walcott played 14 minutes and contributed 3 points, 1 assist and 0 turnovers. Who said he wasn't a good backup PG? Bad Greg Hicks. Bad Greg. Bad, bad Greg.
As Vice-President of BRO, I hereby exercise my executive authority and decree that TJ Cummings is benched for the rest of the season. Every year, it's someone. 2 years ago, it was Jerome. Last year, it was Ray. TJ gets the "I'm out for myself, I don't care about the team and what's a 1-4 offense anyway" award this season. He had 2 points, 2 rebounds, and 3 turnovers and played almost indescribably bad defense in 13 minutes. Lavin jerked him out 4 times, but TJ just didn't get it. Hopefully, Andre will be healthy for next week. Too bad Mike Fey didn't get in this season. Prediction: TJ will finish his career at UCLA as a scrub unless he makes a 100% turnaround, like Matt did after his SO year.
UCLA shot 46.2% for the game, which means they shot about 25% in the last 13 minutes. I think UCLA scored only 4 points between the 13 minute mark and the 7 minute mark. They ended up 17-33 from 3, a .515 mark. The Bruins' 17 turnovers against a team that doesn't cause many turnovers was atrocious. The Wildcats made 48.4% of their shots, which means they shot about 65% over the last 13 minutes. They also made 14-35 3s, or 40%. Arizona made 12 turnovers, just 4 in the second half. UCLA outrebounded Arizona 35-33.
Channing Frye led the Wildcats with 19 points and 8 rebounds. He was 6-6 from the field and 7-7 from the FT line. He will be in the NBA in about 2 years. Luke Walton got 18 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists in a typical Luke performance. Jason Gardner was 5-17 from the field and wound up with 19 points and 6 assists. Ricky Anderson got 16 points, 4 rebounds and 5 assists. Salim Stoudamire added 12 points on 4 3-pointers. Will Bynum came off the bench to score 8 points, including 2 key 3s in the final 6:30. Before that, he was 0-7 from 3. Isaiah Fox added 4 points and 3 rebounds as well.
UCLA falls to 13-4 overall, 5-2 in the Pac-10. Arizona improves to 13-4 overall, 5-2 in the Pac-10. Both teams now await the results of the USC/ASU and Oregon/OSU games today.
The Bruins had their shot to launch themselves to the top of the Pac-10 and into the top 6 in the national rankings with a victory. They blew it. Now they need to pull themselves together and beat the No Cal schools in LA. I think they will do it, just as I'm more convinced than ever that UCLA is going to win the Pac-10 and advance at least to the Elite 8 this season and probably the Final 4.