The No. 14 Arizona Wildcats picked up a huge road win Saturday, beating the No. 3 UCLA Bruins 96-85 at Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles.
Arizona took sole possession of first place in the Pac-12 at 7-0 and improved to 18-2 overall, while UCLA fell to 19-2 with a 6-2 mark in conference play.
Jon Rothstein of CBSSports.com applauded Arizona's defensive effort over one of the nation's premier offensive teams:
The Wildcats shot 50 percent from the field, 45 percent from long range and 90.5 percent from the free-throw line in the win.
Bruins freshman sensation Lonzo Ball was remarkable once again with 24 points, eight assists and six rebounds, but team-wide contributions put Arizona over the top, with six Wildcats scoring in double figures.
Kobi Simmons led the way for the Wildcats with 20 points, while sophomore guard Allonzo Trier put up 12 points, seven rebounds and four assists in his first game of the season.
According to ESPN.com, Trier was ruled eligible for Saturday's contest after serving a suspension for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs.
Trier's return was a huge lift for the Wildcats, but both teams played quality basketball out of the gates. Ball shone brightest thanks to dynamic plays such as this full-court pass, courtesy of CBS Sports CBB:
Arizona overcame a small early deficit to take the lead, but UCLA remained within reach for most of the opening half.
That was due largely to Ball and his ability to excel in all areas, including knocking down shots from beyond the arc:
Although Ball ran UCLA's offense with great efficiency, Arizona junior guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright provided some quality minutes in his own right off the bench.
Jackson-Cartwright's biggest highlight of the half was a lob that center Chance Comanche finished with authority to extend the Wildcats' lead to 34-31 with less than five minutes remaining in the first:
Ball continued to shoulder the load for the Bruins, though, and his impressive basketball IQ helped UCLA hang around, as shown by UCLA Basketball:
After Ball's lefty layup pulled the Bruins within four points, Arizona went on an 11-4 run to close the half and take an 11-point lead into the locker room.
Trier put an exclamation point on the opening 20 minutes by beating the buzzer with a coast-to-coast layup, per this video from Pac-12 Network:
ESPN's Jeff Goodman credited Arizona with showing more tenacity than UCLA in the first half of the contest:
Arizona carried the momentum into the second half and led by as many as 13 in the early going, but the Bruins began to turn the tide and cut into the Wildcats' advantage.
With Arizona leading 66-55, UCLA went on a 7-0 run, including five points from Ball, to whittle the deficit to just four.
Senior guard Isaac Hamilton later nailed a trey with 11:31 left to get the Bruins to within two and wake up the home crowd:
Rawle Alkins answered with a three of his own for the Wildcats to temporarily curtail the UCLA run.
Trier then stretched Arizona's lead back to seven with an explosive dunk that reminded Wildcats fans of what they had been missing in the season's opening months:
UCLA never managed to get closer than the two-point deficit it faced near the 11-minute mark, as Arizona's scoring depth took over and kept the lead out of reach.
The Wildcats are undefeated since losing to Gonzaga in early December, and based on the way they played Saturday with Trier back in the fold, they look the part of a national title contender.
Provided they can win their next three games against unranked opponents, a Feb. 4 meeting with No. 11 Oregon looms in a game that may be for the Pac-12 lead.
Although UCLA faltered, it also has a three-game stretch against unranked teams before a Feb. 9 rematch with an Oregon team that beat it by just two points.
The Bruins have plenty to work on both offensively and defensively, but many of their struggles Saturday can be chalked up to Arizona playing a nearly perfect game.
Following a game that saw several players turn in major contributions for the Wildcats, much of the focus was predictably on Trier's return.
The sophomore made a big impact at both ends of the floor, and Arizona head coach Sean Miller expressed his belief that Trier put the Wildcats over the top in Saturday's game, according to Clay Fowler of the Los Angeles Daily News:
UCLA head coach Steve Alford agreed Trier was a big-time difference-maker, and he was highly impressed with Arizona as a team, per Scott Gleeson of USA Today:
"That obviously was a big boost for them and [Trier's] a very, very good player. He helped impact their team in a very positive way. They're an outstanding basketball team. They've yet to lose on the road so it speaks highly to what they are as a team. In film they look good. In person, they look even better."
According to Liz Habib of Fox 11 in Los Angeles, Ball made it clear after the game that the Bruins need to step up defensively moving forward:
The Bruins are a dynamic offensive team, but Saturday's loss showed they can be beaten by opponents who play a more complete game.
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