UCLA Basketball: The Bruins Are Undeniably Pac-12 Favorites After Arizona Win
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The spotlight was on UCLA as it took on No. 6 Arizona on Thursday night, and it shined.
The UCLA Bruins knew coming into the game that it was their biggest game of the season. The players knew they had to win this key road game in order to remain a contender in the Pac-12 and to reenter the national conversation.
And they did.
Against all odds, UCLA, who was coming off a disappointing home loss to Oregon after a sloppy win over Oregon State, came sprinting out the gate and began the game on a 21-5 run that stifled the Arizona Wildcats and a jam-packed "white-out" crowd in the McKale Center.
This team hasn't had a quality win of this caliber in years, and this is the kind of win that bolsters this program back to contention. It gives Bruins' fans that tingly feeling they haven't felt in quite some time.
This team can win and proved on Thursday night on a nationally televised game that they can do it when it counts.
Not only did this team win a Top 10 team, but it also did so under some difficult circumstances.
Both Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams were suffering a stomach illness from earlier in the week that forced them to leave the game in various stretches. Better yet, UCLA's top scorer in conference play, Travis Wear, was unable to play in the second half due to a head injury.
This win was no fluke.
The Bruins didn't just come out strong offensively from the onset, but came out storming on all cylinders. Their defense was impeccable, holding Arizona, the best shooting team behind UCLA, to 38 percent from the field and 21 percent from beyond the arc.
Best of all, each Bruin showed up for the big game and played their respective role.
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Shabazz Muhammad had another dynamite shooting night with 23 points; Kyle Anderson corralled 12 rebounds; Jordan Adams made clutch free-throws down the stretch and shot well from the field with 15 points; Larry Drew II dished out nine assists; David Wear brought tremendous intensity to the game and put up 15 points; Norman Powell made key transition buckets; and last but certainly not least, Tony Parker got significant playing time and put up six points in 10 minutes.
This team has finally arrived—fashionably late with bright neon sneakers in hostile territory.
However, the great question remains: How will this team respond to this emphatic conference win?
If this UCLA team, which has been hard to get a grasp on this season, revealed anything about itself in Tucson, it let it be known that it wants to win. This team, led by the determined star freshman Muhammad, possesses a raw drive to win.
That drive will carry this team throughout this season, which has hit highs and lows far too extreme for a roller-coaster reference.
Do you think UCLA will win the regular-season conference title?
Nevertheless, this UCLA team is now the favorite to win the Pac-12, and has once again established itself worthy to be included in the national conversation, which it has earned. This team has finally become the team it was anticipated to be.
It would be premature to make too lofty of expectations for this team. That conversation takes place after the Bruins take on Arizona State in Tempe this Saturday.
Regardless, this train is chugging, full-steam ahead on the tracks of a Pac-12 title.
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