Bruins Make Point When it Counts

In an extremely exciting game, UCLA beats Arizona in the closing minutes, knocking off the Pac-10 leader...

Led by Dan Gadzuric, Jason Kapono, Matt Barnes and FR PG Ryan Walcott, 20th ranked UCLA defeated 9th ranked Arizona at Pauley Pavilion Thursday night by a score of 77-76.

This game was one of the most exciting games at Pauley in a long time, with both teams hitting clutch shots and making key plays down the stretch. Ultimately, the outcome was decided on the boards, as UCLA outrebounded Arizona 45-28 and got 10 more FG attempts than the Wildcats.

At the start of the game, the Bruins abandoned their 1-4 offense and posted Dan down low, using more motion sets to create driving lanes to the basket. Dan scored 8 of the Bruins' first 11 points (Jason got the other 3 on a Matt's skip pass as Arizona's defense sagged a little). For their part, the Wildcats scored in their own motion offense just like they always do: Luke Walton was driving by his man (usually Jason), penetrating into the lane, drawing the defense and dishing to the guards and Ricky Anderson for wide-open Js after the came off low picks set by Channing Frye.

After about 8 minutes of see-saw action which saw UCLA make 6 unforced turnovers (they're obviously rusty on that motion), the Bruins moved back into their 1-4. But the most important developments on the floor were the shooting of Jason Gardner and the play of Ryan Walcott at the point for the Bruins.

Arizona utilizes the skip pass very well. With Luke and Ricky Anderson able to see over the top of UCLA's 1-2-2 matchup, they were able to find Gardner as he bombed in 2 straight 3s and then dished it back to Ricky for Arizona's 3rd 3 in a row as Arizona outscored UCLA 9-2 to take a 21-15 lead.

Ryan Walcott entered the game shortly thereafter and played for 5 minutes. During that time, UCLA suddenly resembled a team with a point guard (Ced Bozeman played his worst game of the season). Ryan's quickness, speed and ability to penetrate and dish suddenly put the Wildcats back on their heels on several possessions. He hit a 3, broke the defense down on two drives which led to UCLA scores off of offensive rebounds after he drew the post defenders to him, and shut down Gardner completely on defense. He also took a charge to stop what looked like a breakaway Arizona layup.

UCLA had clawed back to 28-25 when Jason came in for Ryan and immediately bombed in a 3 to tie the score. The Bruins had a lineup of Knight, Thompson, Kapono, Barnes and Gadzuric. Lute Olson went with 3 guards. Arizona scored 9 straight points as the Bruins, playing without any point guard, started turning it over again and were too slow to get back on defense.

Dan slammed in an offensive rebound to end the drought. After Gardner made his 4th 3 of the half (he was 4-7 from 3 in the first half) to make the score 40-30, giving Arizona its biggest lead of the game, Dan made a gorgeous pass out of a double-team as Dijon Thompson cut down the lane and dunked it, and then Matt made a sweet spin move in the lane to cut the lead to 40-34 before halftime. UCLA stopped Arizona cold for the last 2:20 of the half.

The Bruins came out in the second half with a great deal of intensity on defense. Gardner was able to get another easy look from 3 off a skip pass, but otherwise Arizona found it hard to score as the Bruins allowed the Wildcats only 10 points in the first 7 minutes of the half. Matt Barnes was staying in the post, where he truly belongs, and used his quickness and smarts to get some tip-ins and little floaters while also drawing the defense and kicking the ball to Jason outside and Dan inside. The Bruins closed the gap to 50-47 at the 12:56 mark.

Add note: Lavin reinserted Ryan into the game at the 14:13 mark and the Bruins became well organized again on offense…

But Arizona is a team known for its scoring runs, and they quickly went on a 7-2 run to build the lead back up to 57-49 at the 10:42 mark. Ryan continued to play well, feeding Dan for a basket and foul that became a 3-point play, then blowing by Gardner and slicing through the Wildcat d for a layup as he drew the foul and made his own 3-point play. He also locked up Gardner again, as Gardner's only basket for the next 11 minutes came off a breakaway steal of an errant pass by Dan which then turned into a basket at the other end after the refs totally blew it by calling Dan for goaltending as he swatted Gardner's layup attempt away. It was pretty remarkable to see Dan run down Gardner over the length of the floor after making the bad pass.

At that point, Arizona was still up 62-55, and with only 9:17 left, a lot of us fans felt that UCLA wasn't going to be able to pull it out. But the Bruins amped up their defensive intensity again, and with Ryan playing the point, Dan and Matt were getting the ball inside and Billy and Jason were getting it outside. Ryan hit Billy for a 3 (which the refs called a 2; Lavin asked them to re-check the play on the TV monitor and they changed the call correctly to a 3. Just imagine if they hadn't…). Then Ryan took another key charge from Gardner as the only defender back on a 2 on 1 fastbreak.

With Arizona up 63-60 and 7 minutes left, Lavin put Ced back in for Ryan to a loud chorus of boos. Many fans started chanting Ryan's name. Ced got mad, drove the lane for the first time and drew the post defender as he missed the layup, so Dan grabbed the rebound and dunked it. Will Bynum made an amazing clutch J right over Dan, then Ced hit Billy who faked the 3, drove the baseline and made the layup as he drew a foul. Billy hit the FT and the Bruins had tied the game 65-65 at the 5:34 mark after trailing since the 11:47 mark of the first half. And about 500 UCLA alumni stood up and headed for the doors to get to their cars before the traffic got heavy…

Luke Walton hit 2 FTs after another ridiculously bad call by the refs (Luke traveled AND carried the ball on the play before Matt cleanly blocked his shot). Then Ced through a horrible pass right into Luke's hands and Luke took it down for the slam. Billy responded with a short J, then Gardner got loose again after Luke penetrated and dished him the ball and Gardner calmly bombed in the 25-footer. Ced made up for the gaffe as he then hit Jason for a 23-footer to make the score 72-70 Arizona with 3:34 to go.

UCLA got a tough stop, then Matt made a nice drive and drew a foul. He hit the first FT, but missed the second. During his FTs, Lavin finally put Ryan back into the game. Both teams failed to score on subsequent possessions before Channing Frye made a FT.

The Bruins came down, missed the shot, but got the ball back after Arizona knocked the ball out of bounds. The Bruins missed their next shot, but Dan grabbed the rebound and called timeout before he fell out of bounds. On their 3rd try, Ryan hit Matt in the low post with a bounce pass, Matt drew the defense with a drive and whipped the ball to Jason, who swished the 24-footer from the corner, right in front of the Bruin bench. UCLA had its first lead of the game of the second half, 74-73, at the 1:07 mark.

Arizona came down, Ricky Anderson picked off Ryan, Billy switched onto Jason Gardner, but Gardner gave Billy the shake and bake and fired in a 24 foot 3-pointer of his own to make it 76-74 Arizona with 36 seconds left. Everyone in the stands screamed at Lavin to call a timeout, but he refused.

Ryan brought the ball up. The Bruins went to a double low-post set. Ryan made the correct bounce pass into Matt, who had Ricky completely sealed off. When Matt spun into the lane, Channing rotated over to block his path to the goal. Luke rushed into the lane to prevent Matt from dumping it to Dan. So Matt fired it to out to Jason again, who again was completely wide open. With the biggest shot of his life before him, Jason didn't even hesitate: He was in motion before he even got the ball. 26 feet out: BOOM. UCLA 77, Arizona 76. 19 seconds to go…

Lute Olson called time out and set up a play. After spending 13 seconds trying to find Gardner, who couldn't get Ryan out of his jersey even after using two screens, Luke made a slick pass to find the FR Channing, who put up a soft banker than just went in and out. Luke and Dan wrestled for the rebound for a few seconds as the buzzer sounded.

Steve Lavin was afraid Lute Olson might complain about not getting a held ball call, so he rushed over to Olson and shook his hand vigorously just as Olson had stepped onto the court to speak to the refs. Olson looked at Lavin, who said, "Coach, you're in the Hall of Fame. I'm fighting for my life out here. Let's just get off the court before someone in this crowd throws something at me." Olson laughed and they started walking off the court together before Olson remembered his team's dressing room was in the opposite direction…

Dan must like playing Arizona at Pauley. He had 22 points, 16 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 blocks in 34 minutes. He made 10-16 FGs and 2-3 FTs. He dunked it, he hit turnaround Js, he hit jump hooks, he did it all. He even had 8 offensive rebounds, which is pretty scary. Jason got 20 points and 5 rebounds. He was 6-11 from 3, but those 2 3s in the last 1:07 were doozies. I think that was the first game winning shot of Jason's college career. Matt finished with 13 points, 15 big rebounds (12 on the defensive end) and 5 assists, but his 6 turnovers (4 in the first 7 minutes of the game) really hurt.

Ryan collected 6 points, 3 assists and a steal (plus those 2 charges taken) and made only 1 turnover in 15 minutes. He played 10 minutes in the second half and got 3 points, 3 assists and a steal in that time, and Gardner was only 1-3 from the field with Ryan covering him (basically, Gardner couldn't even get his hands on the ball with Ryan covering him). This was easily the best game of Ryan's career to date, and the Bruins would've had zero chance of winning without his stellar performance. His defense was especially good (the best individual d by a Bruin guard this season), and UCLA might've found the guy they want to chase hot quick guards from here on out. He really ran the club like a vet and his dribble penetration really opened things up inside and out. He's now made 80% of his FTs and 42.9% of his 3s.

Ced needs to take a few lessons from Ryan. He still pulls up short whenever he beats his man off the dribble and, instead of taking it to the rack, he just moves backward and restarts the offense 35 feet from the basket. That has to stop. Ced was 0-4 from the field and managed just 2 assists against 3 turnovers in 21 minutes. This was Ced's worst game of his career to date.

Billy continues to miss on his 3s (1-5), but he also continues to excel at popping the short J off the dribble. He was 5-8 on his other FG attempts and finished with 12 points, 3 rebounds and a steal. TJ Cummings got 2 points and 2 rebounds and actually played solid d in 12 minutes of action. Dijon Thompson had 2 points in 10 minutes, playing guard and some PG the whole way. Rico Hines played 7 minutes and got a steal.

Arizona was led by Jason Gardner, who made 7-10 3s en route to 25 points. Luke Walton got 17 points, 8 assists and 3 rebounds, but made 4 turnovers, 3 in the final 10 minutes of the second half when UCLA's defense got tougher. Ricky Anderson finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds, but did not defend very well and only played 22 minutes as a result.

Salim Stoudamire was only 3-8 from the field as he scored 8 points, and Channing Frye, who burned the Bruins in Tucson, was held to 5 points, but grabbed 8 rebounds. Will Bynum did his clutch thing with 6 key points in 19 minutes. Isaiah Fox and Dennis Latimore appeared overwhelmed by Dan and managed to do absolutely nothing at all in a combined 15 minutes of action.

As I noted, UCLA outrebounded Arizona 45-28 for the game, 24-13 in the second half when the Bruins outscored the Wildcats 43-36. UCLA had 17 offensive rebounds, 12 of which led to Bruin scores.

The Bruins made 45.7% of their FGs and 34.8% of their 3s, while Arizona made 45% and 50%, respectively. Arizona was 11-22 from 3, but only got 7 attempts in the second half compared to 15 in the first, as the Bruins did a better job of fighting through picks, especially when Ryan was in the game and on Jason Gardner. The Bruins made 17 turnovers to Arizona's 12. In the 15 minutes that Ryan played, UCLA made 3 turnovers compared to 8 for Arizona.

This was like the USC game, where Lavin didn't call a timeout to set up the last shot and it worked (unlike Villanova). Someone in the SID's office checked the record books and found out that prior to the Villanova game Lavin had not called a timeout in the 9 previous games that had come down to the last shot, and UCLA had won all 9, so maybe Lavin shouldn't have gotten so much heat for not calling a timeout in the Villanova game. Who knows?

It was interesting to see the team use some motion sets for a few minutes, and it was good to see how well the staff adjusted the defense to limit Arizona's 3-point attempts after halftime. The Bruins made too many turnovers, especially early on (in their motion sets), but they gave Arizona a few more things to think about and perhaps this means their offense won't be as predictable from here on out. Hopefully, Ced's poor play was just one of those FR blahs, and just as hopefully Ryan's game was a signal of better times to come. With his quickness and penetration skills (and shooting ability; Ryan hit over 40% of his 3s and 76% of his FTs as a SR in h.s.), Ryan really gives the Bruins a jolt when he comes into the game.

This was obviously a big win for the Bruins. They are now 17-7 overall and 9-4 in the Pac-10. Arizona falls to 17-7 overall and 10-4 in the Pac-10. We now have 6 teams in the Pac-10 with 4 losses each. Dang.

Next up: Arizona State at 12:30 on Saturday…

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