UCLA came into the game shorthanded again with James Keefe and Reeves Nelson out with injuries and Bobo Morgan suspended for one game. Brendan Lane, coming off an ankle injury, reinjured the ankle in the 2nd half but stayed in until fouling out. So, the Bruins were clearly short-handed, which contributed to them running out of gas.
For UCLA the wheels really fell off when Malcolm Lee had to go to the bench for about 5 minutes, battling his old nemesis, leg cramps. Without Lee, UCLA suddenly stopped getting good shots off the set offense and, without his scoring, it was left up to Mike Roll. Roll did everything he could possibly do to keep UCLA in front but even he eventually ran out of gas. UA went on a 9-0 run to cut the lead to 1 and eventually overtook UCLA.
For Arizona, the 2nd half belonged to two players, sophomore guard Kyle Fogg and freshman point guard Lamont Jones. Fogg had 26 points for the game, 19 in the 2nd half, as he repeatedly found the holes in UCLA's zone and hit 7 of his 10 three-pointers. Jones is a typical schoolyard guard from New York City, but he made several tough drives in the 2nd half, either finishing or drawing fouls, ending up with 16 points. UA had to play much of the 2nd half without star freshman Derrick Williams, who had 4 fouls and then had to sit awhile after bumping knees with Lane. Williams finished with 12 points and 12 boards despite the foul problems, and senior point guard Nic Wise had 12 points, all in the 2nd half.
For UCLA, senior Mike Roll again led the way with 21 points and 4 assists. Tyler Honeycutt had 11 points, 11 boards, 4 assists and 2 blocks, and he just keeps getting better every time out. Lane had 7 points, 6 boards and 2 blocks, but had several problems finishing inside in the game, getting a dunk blocked by Williams, another layup blocked, and then getting called for a charge on a move to the basket. Lee's cramps couldn't have come at a worse time for UCLA, as he was having a very strong game and UCLA had a double-digit lead at the time. Lee finished with 13 points and 5 boards but it was his ability to keep the UA guards honest on defense that was so key. Without him, UA was able to clamp down more on Roll and forced UCLA into several turnovers. Arizona turned up the ball pressure on Jerime Anderson and Mustafa Abdul-Hamid, making it harder for UCLA to get into their offense, and then would back off either player, using their man to help on the other Bruins.
UCLA led the entire game until Arizona finally took the lead at 65-64, and then hit a huge three-pointer to take a 68-64 lead. The game stayed close the rest of the way but UCLA squandered two huge opportunities late in the game. First, Nikola Dragovic missed a short bank shot that he overshot badly, but Lee rebounded and scored. The next time down UCLA missed a shot, but Lane back-tapped the rebound out to a wide open Dragovic, whose three-pointer wasn't even close. Lane couldn't track down the rebound, Arizona got the ball and eventually made one free throw to take a 69-64 lead. Tyler Honeycutt's tip-in got UCLA to within 68-70 with a minute left but then Roll lost his man on a backdoor cut and Jones' layup gave Arizona the lead, 72-68. Dragovic again missed a shot, but got his own rebound and scored to cut the lead to 72-70.
Then the game got weird: Ben Howland was clearly telling his players to foul immediately and that's what Dragovic did -- bumping Derrick Williams before the ball had been inbounded. The ref called the foul and called it an intentional foul, presumably because it was a dead ball, so UA got two shots and the ball. Williams, who was 2-of-6 from the line at that point, knocked down both shots. UCLA had to foul again and Wise converted both shots, makin g it a 6-point lead. Dragovic hit a late three-pointer to cut the lead back to 3 but UA held on for the win.
When you consider UCLA was missing three bigs and had to play a long stretch of the game without Lane, it was actually pretty surprising UCLA led for most of the game, let alone by double digits. Howland's game plan was obvious, as they repeatedly went inside early, attacking the smaller UA frontline and trying to get Williams in foul trouble. UCLA got the lead, worked the clock effectively and made shots, and did a great job on Wise, holding him scoreless in the first half. But it all came apart in the 2nd half as Fogg got red-hot, shooting Arizona back into the game, and then Jones started making one big play after another. And UCLA ran out of gas. This game illustrated once again how badly this UCLA team needs a point guard; Lee had only 1 point but he was the only Bruin playing point guard able to get UCLA into the offense quickly. Even though, in the halfcourt, Roll and Honeycutt were used out high to distribute the ball while Lee did his damage in the paint on backcuts or offensive rebounds, Lee was still the only guy who could get UCLA into its offense and, withouth him, they went dead in the water. It's not even that UCLA needed a point guard, but just a strong enough ball-handling guard who could get the ball into the halfcourt cleanly. It ultimately cost UCLA the game.