The No. 17 Arizona Wildcats overcame a 10-point halftime deficit and exploited the foul-plagued UCLA Bruins in Friday’s 81-75 win to remain comfortably in second place in the Pac-12 standings.
Once UCLA big men Thomas Welsh and Tony Parker fouled out with six minutes to play, the Wildcats went on a tear and outscored the Bruins 19-12 the rest of the way, including a 9-0 run, to secure their sixth straight 20-win season.
UCLA sharpshooters Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton kept it close by sinking a pair of jumpers to pull within four, but the Bruins were forced to foul Arizona superstar Allonzo Trier, who sank both free throws to seal the win.
Trier, who was playing in just his second game since suffering a broken hand a month ago, was the Wildcats’ leading scorer with 18 points despite shooting 30.7 percent. Half of his production came from the charity stripe, where he missed only one of 10 free-throw attempts.
Trier also showed his flair for the acrobatic on an alley-oop from Gabe York during the Wildcats’ second-half comeback, courtesy of the Pac-12 Networks:
The Wildcats capitalized on the Bruins’ lack of depth down low once Welsh and Parker fouled out within 42 seconds of each other as the game reached the final six minutes.
Their departures came just as Arizona had successfully eliminated its 10-point deficit.
Go Joe Bruin wasn’t a fan of the calls—particularly the one on Parker, which came as the senior was going up for a rebound against Arizona center Kaleb Tarczewski:
Parker had inside position during the physical play, and Bruins head coach Steve Alford let out his frustration with his hands on his head, while ESPN telecaster Bill Walton said, “You’ve got to let that go.”
Regardless of the officiating, Arizona deserves credit for inching its way back from a 44-34 deficit at the half and picking up the pace with a 6-0 run in less than two minutes to pull within one.
Zach Helfand of the Los Angeles Times noted that’s when the momentum had changed within Arizona’s confines at the McKale Center:
The Wildcats eventually tied the game at 61-61 with 6:37 remaining on a free throw by forward Ryan Anderson. After Alford responded with a jumper, Trier attempted a three-pointer that led to the tussle between Parker and Tarczewski, who finished with a career-high 14 rebounds.
Arizona had 42 rebounds as a team, including 13 by Anderson, while UCLA had 34.
The Bruins are on the brink of missing the NCAA tournament after falling to 13-11 on Friday. They have wins over three Top 10 teams, but none since defeating then-No. 7 Arizona on Jan. 7.
That defeat was part of Arizona’s first two-game skid in two seasons during its annual trek to Los Angeles, where it lost to USC in four overtimes two nights later as Trier broke his hand.
But now that he’s back, the Wildcats appear to be poised for a strong run in March, and Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports noted they’re a team to keep an eye on:
Arizona has a rematch with No. 23 USC on Sunday, while UCLA will continue its trek through the desert and visit Arizona State.
Arizona trails only No. 11 Oregon in the Pac-12 standings, a team it lost to handily at home on Jan. 28. Wildcats head coach Sean Miller said Friday’s win over UCLA had a similar feel to that defeat, but a more sustained finish, adding the crowd played a huge factor in Friday's win, per The Daily Wildcat:
Miller added seniors such as Tarczewski, Anderson and York will be remembered for their heroics such as those on display Friday, per AZ Desert Swarm:
From the opposing locker room, Alford wasn’t in nearly as chipper. The first-year Bruins coach was admittedly upset with the officiating, per Helfand:
The Bruins will need to get on a strong run over its final six games to bolster their résumé for the tournament. They’ll have their chance against the likes of Cal and Oregon.