Wearing the Road Blues, not singing 'em
UCLA went into the white-out heat of the McKale Center in Tucson, AZ to face the expert's favorite to win the Pac-12 conference, and walked out carrying a Wildcat pelt, like Hercules with his lion skin.
The Bruins won 84-73, after carrying the first half 40-30. UCLA advanced its record to 16-4 (6-1 Pac-12). The Wildcats dropped to 16-2 (4-2 Pac-12)
It was a collective effort from the team wearing the True Blue with gold lettering across the chest, forcing Arizona into a high paced game that suited the high-scoring style of the players on the floor.
The Bruins forced 14 Wildcat turnovers and shot nearly 48 percent for the game. It was a steely eyed, steady nerved battle performance on the road, and a strong resume win early in the Pac-12 Conference season.
Grade outs and commentary on the Bruins' contributing players fill the slides that follow.
T. Park had a nice night
This game should be considered Tony Parker's debut for UCLA, and the curtain came up as Coach Ben Howland said it would, in a big game with significant minutes for a role.
Parker showed some of the panache that astute observers have seen in him every time he is on the floor.
Parker played nearly 10 minutes, close to double his usual floor time. The extra minutes came partially because Travis Wear went to the bench with concussion symptoms, but that is no matter. Parker scored six points on 2-3 shooting and 2-3 from the line.
But it was not the points that were important, it was the attitude and the demeanor.
Early in the first half Parker grabbed a rebound, but had it stripped and got lightly run across the eye. It looked for a minute like he was going to whine about not getting a call from the referee, but he put his head down and ran to the defensive end. That was smart.
Later Parker went hard at the rim off of a pick-and-roll and was fouled. He made one-of-two free throws. Later still he was forced into a turnaround, fall-away jump shot that he buried with a foul called and 6:48 to play. Then he made the free throw and put the Bruins ahead 63-55.
Parker played hard always, and played smart, mostly. He could be so crucial to this team if he can keep competing and making plays in practice and games. Tonight was a good night.
David Wear answered the bell
David Wear was the player of the game for UCLA, not because he was necessarily the best, but because he entered the ring when the bell tolled and swung hard until the deed was done.
Wear has been a limited player, not doing anything better than his brother and not adding any significant toughness or rebounding to the lineup. But tonight, after his brother was hurt, David played 31 minutes as opposed to his usual 21, scored 15 points and grabbed eight rebounds.
Wear finished a Shabazz Muhammad miss at the rim; he knocked down a spot up jump shot to push UCLA ahead 70-60 in the second half. He made two free throws with 2:45 to play to make the game 75-66 in favor of UCLA.
To cap his big night, Wear threw down a dunk off a feed from Kyle Anderson on the press break.
Wear will be an important morale guy and leader off the bench for the younger Bruins. To see a veteran player relegated to fewer minutes come off the bench when his number is called and ball out is a big contribution.
Powell will be a key for this team
Norman Powell played the first half like this team needs him to: a big play, energy infusion off the bench.
In his first play on the floor, Powell pulled in a rebound and snapped off an outlet pass.
A minute later he got a steal, sprinted out down the middle of the floor and took off for a dunk with Nick Johnson, a stud athlete for Arizona, trailing him all the way and left no recourse to stop the play. The crowd quietened behind that.
Another minute went by and Powell made a slashing drive off the right side for a layup.
Powell played 18 minutes, almost six fewer than he usually gets. He scored four nice points on 2-3 shooting.
It seemed to be just the flow of this game and the rhythm of the other perimeter players that kept Powell off the floor. He is and will be an enormous bench piece going forward.
Travis Wear, hurt but vital for the Bruins
There was a little shake on the baseline and a jump shot that traced the St. Louis Arch before dropping through like a rain drop into water.
There was a jumper kissed off the glass to beat the shot clock. There was a dunk off of an assist from Shabazz Muhammad.
Then there was Wear challenging a rim attack by Arizona's Grant Jerrett, a hard collision and an inadvertent arm across the head that left Wear with concussion symptoms. He spent the second half on the bench.
The tough defensive mindset around the goal was exciting to watch; it is what has been missing from both the Wears' games. But the injury was a bad crash.
It would be deflating to learn the Wears were not built to handle heavy contact inside, because they will be needed there. But the thing to hope for now is that it was a fluke and that Travis will be back for Arizona State.
Travis has become one of the most confident, efficient and important pieces of a fairly lethal offensive team. He was 3-3 for six points and had two rebounds before being hurt.
Drew Two, the man with a plan
This cat is becoming a straight A student. There is a musicians rhythm to what he does, and the right touch. He played another 35 minutes tonight, which is about what he is counted on for every night.
Drew Two threw a beautiful three-quarters court bounce pass to Jordan Adams on a runout toward the hoop. He got Travis Wear on a behind the back pass for a little bank make.
Along with Anderson these two were a nasty press break. It should go like this the rest of the year. The pair of them are an amazing point counter-point contrast.
With Drew smaller and very quick with a rock-solid handle, and Anderson enormous, much more ponderous but also in complete control of the ball, they create difficult counter tempos.
It is the speed changes in basketball that really distort defenses and cause pillars to part for the offense.
Drew Two made a lay-up off a slashing drive to the rim. In the second half he knocked in a kiss shot as the shot clock spun down. He kept attacking, scoring seven points on 2-8 shooting with nine assists.
If he can build confidence in his ability to score, he is capable of leading this team to far outposts in the land where the tournament is staged.
Even with the food poisoning cramps that sent him to the bench in the second half, Jordan Adams did well what he does best: bucket points.
Adams scored 15 points on 50 percent shooting with five rebounds. He is an excellent, high-end offensive basketball player.
He got points on a baseline drive to the rim; he scored coast-to-coast off of a steal and later on slashed hard right where he hedged off a defender and kissed one in off the window.
There was a weird moment when Adams got a back-side feed heading toward the rim with his left hand and completely blew a wide open layup. It should have been a big dunk.
It set me thinking—when have I seen Adams dunk? It might have been the sickness, but Adams, at 6'5'' and wide, has to finish that with a hammer dunk or at least a power box.
A few points came off Adams' card because he still has a tendency to get lost or lose interest on defense. His effort is high, but sometimes the result is not what it should be.
Adams also gave up a one-handed rebound to Nick Johnson that led to Wildcat points. Adams has to lock-up the best he can defensively and box-out like his next basket depends on it. But don't make any mistake: the kid is a baller.
Shabazz Muhammad played tonight like he was trotting at his home gym in front of friendly fans. He scored 23 points on 8-16 shooting to lead UCLA inside a hostile settlement at Tucson, AZ.
Muhammad was hot early and Bill Walton was riding Coach Howland about "benching" him while the ball was dropping through the hoop. But it was not a benching, it was rest.
Muhammad has to get rest somewhere in the game and Coach Howland had him on a schedule.
With the rest, Muhammad played 34 minutes and has another road game to lead the team into on Saturday.
Walton is among the greatest college players of all time and a true UCLA legend, but about 18 percent of what he says is almost complete nonsense.
He has been merciless with innuendo and outright criticism of Coach Howland, quite a bit of it unwarranted because it comes from Walton's imagination and not out of reality.
It would be very difficult not to give Muhammad a top grade, but there are times when he stops playing defense and does very little to rebound, especially on the defensive end.
Tonight he had three rebounds, the same number the Bruins' point guard, Drew Two, had. That is not good enough for a 6'5'' attack wing.
Muhammad has incredible endurance, and if he turns that to locking people out on defense and rebounding like a giant condor with the bones right for flight but built with the strength of a boulder, he will be a terrifying force to have to deal with.
This kid is incredibly steady on the floor. It is fun to watch him handle everything that comes his way with the same attitude until the game is in hand or the horn sounds.
Kyle Anderson knows what it takes to win basketball games, and his demeanor reflects that.
It was nice to see him get a dunk to put the game out of reach for Arizona as the clock wound down. There had been a fast break the play before where he had gotten timid and worried about being blocked from behind and really put up one of the worst lay-ups I have ever seen.
I worried for a minute that this was the only 6'8'' Division I player who could not dunk a basketball. But he got one down nice and easy like Larry Bird used to on the break when he had to. Bird was 6'10'', so I guess there was an advantage in size.
Anderson had eight points on 3-7 shooting, 13 rebounds and three assists. He was playing, like Adams, on a sour stomach and did very well for himself. It may have been a belly full of chalk that was holding him to the floor. Who knows?
His real value tonight came on the press break with Drew Two. With the contrast these two make as solid ball handlers, it is a serious dilemma for opponents in terms of who they want to cover with who, because Anderson covered by a big on a press break is no match in the back-court, and in the front-court there will be a bad match to exploit.