February 25th, 2017
They went into one of the toughest places to play in the country, and found a way. The Bruins defeated Arizona on Saturday night 77-72, which was their biggest statement win of the season.
The Wildcats had won 70 of 71 straight home games coming into Saturday’s game, and 21 in a row. However, the Bruins dominated the offensive boards, and used a big 19-4 run in the 2nd half to take down Arizona.
Thomas Welsh scored 12 of his 14 points in the 2nd half. He was one of 5 Bruins in double figures. Bryce Alford had 15, TJ Leaf and Aaron Holiday had 12 each, while Lonzo Ball had 11 points and 8 assists.
UCLA had a rough ending to the 1st half, missing 7 of their last 8 shots, as Arizona went on a 10-1 run in the final two minutes. The Bruins had been up by as many as 7, but they found themselves trailing 43-39 at halftime.
The Bruins decided to play some defense in the 2nd half, switching to a 3-2 zone, which slowed down the Wildcats. They also outrebounded Arizona 9-1 on the offensive glass in the half.
UCLA stretched the lead to 11 twice late in the game. The last at 73-62 on Welsh’s’ inside basket with 4:38 to play before Arizona managed one final charge finishing the game on a 10-4 run.
Arizona cut the lead to 75-72 with 29 seconds left. Aaron Holiday missed the first of a one-and-one free throw, which gave the Wildcats a chance to tie. However, Kadeem Allen air-balled a three-pointer in the final seconds. Allonzo Trier had a career-high 28 points in the losing effort.
The win tightens the Pac 12 race and likely puts Oregon in the driver seat to win the Pac 12 regular season title. Oregon and Arizona are tied for 1st, but the Ducks own the tie-breaker by virtue of winning their head-to-head matchup with the Wildcats. Arizona has one game left at Arizona State, while Oregon’s final game is at Oregon State.
As for the Bruins, they are now 1.5 games out of 1st place in the conference, with two games left against the Washington schools. UCLA is still likely to finish in 3rd place, which sets up a very important Pac 12 Tournament. The Bruins would potentially face Arizona in the semi-finals and Oregon in the finals. A #1 seed in the West Region would be on the line for the NCAA Tournament. It’s a tough road but after Saturday, UCLA gave us reasons to believe they can beat anybody on any floor.