UCLA (20-12) vs. No. 5 Arizona (29-3)
Friday, 6 p.m., MGM Grand Garden Arena
TV: Pac-12 Networks
Radio: AM 570
Scouting report: Even at full health, UCLA would have had a hard time beating top-seeded Arizona. With its most talented player now questionable to play, the Bruins’ chances against the Wildcats look even slimmer.
Freshman forward Kevon Looney took a blow to the face yesterday afternoon while jostling for a rebound against USC, and eventually left the arena to undergo a CT scan. There has been no official update on his status yet, but the worst-case scenario is probably a facial fracture. If that’s the case, maybe there’s a chance he can play with a mask on. Bouncing back in about 24 hours, however, seems optimistic to say the least.
Inadvertent, but Kevon Looney took a shot from USC's Jovanovic. Stitched up, underneath left eye. UCLA frosh is tough pic.twitter.com/Qd9LSBLNAD
— Matthew Snyder (@schnides14) March 12, 2015
If Looney is indeed out, UCLA will be in for a rough night. Freshman Gyorgy Goloman would likely move into the starting five, and as surprisingly useful as the three-star recruit as been as a reserve, it’s impossible for anyone on the roster to replace what the future lottery pick does for the Bruins.
UCLA put up a great fight at the McKale Center earlier this season, but this still arguably Sean Miller’s best team yet. They have more size an anyone in the conference, and Brandon Ashley could be a matchup nightmare against a shorthanded roster.
The Bruins at least won’t lack for motivation. They have beaten Arizona twice in a row in the Pac-12 Tournament, and have their NCAA Tournament hours riding on what essentially amounts to a play-in game.
“SC’s our rival, but that’s kind of our rival rival,” said Bryce Alford. “It’s the league’s best against the league’s best.”
Opposing player to watch: Stanley Johnson was completely shut down by Norman Powell the last time the two teams met. The UCLA senior looked dominant on defense early against USC, although he picked up three fouls in the first half.
But Johnson is also coming off one of the best games of his career, with 19 points and seven rebounds against Cal. And he still has a four-inch height advantage over Powell.
Key stat: One offensive rebound. That’s all UCLA managed when it traveled to Tucson this season, with Looney — who else? — responsible for the one grab. The Bruins proved they can play defense well enough to fluster the Wildcats’ offensively, but they’ll need to generate more opportunities of their own to stand a chance.
Odds: UCLA is an 11-point underdog in Las Vegas, and kenpom.com gives the Bruins a 12 percent chance at winning.
— Columnist Mark Whicker, on UCLA’s precarious situation on the NCAA Tournament bubble.
— Isaac Hamilton had the game of his life against USC, just four days after his grandmother’s death.