UCLA stumbles again in 81-75 loss at No. 17 Arizona

Arizona coach Sean Miller says his Wildcats had "self-inflicted breakdowns" during their 87-84 loss at UCLA on Jan. 7. (Hans Gutknecht/Staff)

Arizona coach Sean Miller said his Wildcats’ defense had improved since a January loss at UCLA. (Hans Gutknecht/Staff)

Earlier this week, Sean Miller insisted that Arizona’s defense is better than what UCLA saw a month ago at Pauley Pavilion.

“Although I don’t think we’re night-and-day different, we have steadily improved,” said the Wildcats’ head coach.

Heading into the McKale Center on Friday night, UofA had only allowed two teams to shoot more than 50 percent from the field: UCLA and Oregon. It lost both those games, the first of which was punctuated by Bryce Alford’s game-winning 3-pointer at Pauley Pavilion. The latter, meanwhile, marked No. 17 Arizona’s first home loss since February 2013.

The rematch against the Bruins this week, Miller hoped, would see his players put in a much stouter performance.

The Wildcats did enough. After falling into a double-digit halftime hole in Tucson, Arizona closed out an 81-75 home victory. The foul-filled game, which saw UofA shoot 45 free throws to UCLA’s 16, marked the Bruins’ fifth loss in seven outings.

It may have very well ended their at-large NCAA Tournament hopes.

Isaac Hamilton made his first four shots, and finished with a game-high 24 points. He had 15 points in the first half alone, missing just two of his nine attempts. The Bruins (13-11, 4-7) shot 53.1 percent before the break.

However, centers Thomas Welsh and Tony Parker both fouled out with 5:55 left in the game, forcing UCLA to turn to a frontcourt of Jonah Bolden and Gyorgy Goloman — neither of whom have seen a consistent workload this season.

The Bruins held a 63-61 lead when Parker committed his fifth foul. They only made four field goals the rest of the way, two of which came on the final 50 seconds.

Arizona — which had lost just one of its last 51 games at the McKale Center — didn’t play the sort of up-tempo style that has been so troublesome for the Bruins this season. Averaging 69.1 possessions per 40 minutes, the Wildcats ranked seventh in the Pac-12 and 176th nationally.

That may have been part of the reason they converted just 29.6 percent from the field in the first half, enduring a streak of nine straight missed shots. Take out Parker Jackson-Cartwright, who hit a pair of 3-pointers in the first five minutes, and the Wildcats returned to their locker room at a miserable 5-of-23 clip.

Arizona climbed back thanks in large part to Allonzo Trier, who was playing in just his second game since breaking his hand last month. The freshman led the team with 18 points after not making a shot in the first half.

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  • KW

    Both Alfords, good bye.

    • Nicholas Le Mero

      Sorry but when Bryce Alford doe not get his points UCLA basically loses . So do not blame him but the coach who has been able to make them play as a team, instead you have guys who do not know what to do with the ball except dribbling and dribbling around, with dribble drive forced penetration and shots with Hamilton and uncontrolled Holiday one and one playing for the pros scouts..

      • instead you have guys who do not know what to do with the ball

        If only they had a coach ….

        Alford doesn’t play defense; if his father were to sit him until he does and so gain the respect of his players, then the team wouldn’t need “his points.”

        Alford reminds me of Kobe, and not in a good way: Neither play defense and both play their respective teams into a hole just so they can play the hero.

        • 88 Straight

          It is on Coach Alford who does not hold his son accountable for playing poor defense and taking poor shots.

        • guest

          you don’t know anything about basketball if you put Alford in the same breath as Kobe…

          • you don’t know anything about basketball if you put Alford in the same breath as Kobe

            You’re not reading.

            Kobe was an excellent scorer and his work ethic is admirable, but he was never a good team player. He and Jim Buss have destroyed the franchise (with an assist from David Stern).

            If you want an example of a great basketball player and great Laker, look at Magic Johnson. When Magic was 20-year-old rookie, he started Game 6 of the NBA Finals at center, played all 5 positions, scored 42 points, grabbed 15 rebounds. and handed out 7 assists in winning the championship and being named NBA Final MVP.

            What was Kobe doing as a rookie? Air-balling the Lakers out of the playoffs.

          • Hogsman

            I’ll always consider Magic as the best Laker ever, not only because he was a clutch player, but also because he made everyone around him more effective, and he built team chemistry rather than alienating many of his teammates – he was a true leader. However, I think it’s important to remember that Kobe was a green 17 year-old while Magic was a 20 year-old who had already spent two years in college and had won an NCAA championship before entering the NBA. Not many (if any) other rookie seasons could ever compare to Magic’s.

          • gotroy22

            How about best NBA player ever.

          • Hogsman

            Maybe. I think there are also some pretty good arguments for Jordan and Kareem (anybody else have an NCAA rule changed specifically because of him?), but Magic is definitely a candidate. I wished he could’ve had an uninterrupted career, but I’m just glad he’s still alive.

          • Lifelong Bruin Fan

            Kareem is by far the most underrated player in the greatest of all-time discussion IMHO. Never mind that he led an expansion team to an NBA title in his second season with only an aging Oscar Robertson standing out among his teammates, or that he accumulated 6 MVPs (in 10 years!), 6 championships, and 38,000+ points. He is the only player in history to dominate both ends of the floor in the paint (where the game is won and lost) *with* the ability to close out games featuring the most unstoppable and reliable shot in history (56% career field goal percentage) and 72% free throw percentage, making him the definition of “closer” before the term became fashionable. In a draft to start a new team I would choose Kareem first every time. I’d choose Magic second.

  • jim

    Personally, I think those officials were influenced by that very loud and roudy crowd. The free throw attempts were 45-16 in favor of Arizona. You couldn’t get those kind of numbers if you intentionally told your team to go out there and play jungle ball.

  • Richard

    Do u know how to spell FIX ? It’s F***I****X
    Been going on forever. Pac referees will not let a leading Pac team lose to a mediocre Pac team thereby lessening the seed of the BB team or the chance to make the Final 4 in FB. More revenue for the Pac as a result and therefore more $ for them !!
    Miller should have been thrown out of the game several times over. Never seen a coach get away w/ such virulent, unrelenting ref baiting. # Stay off the playing flour Punk

    • guest

      where were you when it was the flipside and the refs were accused to favoring the leading Bruins? face it. the team has fallen under Alford.

  • BruinAZ

    U of A did not win because they had played better defense. They won because it was decided that they were going to win. The refs did not give the Bruins a chance. When our bigs fouled out with a couple minutes left….this is when we lost the game. Not because of anything that U of A did as a team, but because of the refs that were on their team.

    • gotroy22

      I taped your game and after we lost to ASU with most of our team in foul trouble I then watched the same pattern happen to the ruins, only it was much more blatant and totally affected the outcome when you basically were defenseless to the lob in the last 5 minutes.The Pac 12 is a joke.

  • Nicholas Le Mero

    I am starting to lose interest in the College game which is
    taking the direction of the NBA circus . As I have predicted long time ago , the game has turned into a ridiculous 3 points contest which is killing how the game should be played . It is easier to make them than to score underneath. It was instituted to offset the big men
    presence in the paint ,when all they had to do is widen that paint especially along the base line by drawing both lines diagonally from both tip end of the foul line. Now you need 4 players on the floor who can make them 30 to 40% of the time to be a final four contender. You can push the line back they will adjust etc..The one and one free throws is penalizing the offense while calling a time out penalized the defense that traps the opponent player ball carrier in a corner. The fouls calls are also ridiculous, when they should only be called when the ball handler loses control of it as long the guy fouling try to go for the ball only ,and of course during the action of shooting etc..

    • Now you need 4 players on the floor who can make them 30 to 40% of the time to be a final four contender.

      Defense always wins.

      • gotroy22

        Who plays defense in the Pac 12?

    • Lifelong Bruin Fan

      I too feel the 3-pt shooting heavy approach to today’s basketball has made the game much less interesting. I don’t think there should be any “extra credit” given for making a shot further from the basket as oftentimes it is much easier to make a 22-ft plus set shot unguarded with feet planted than it is to score in the post or in medium range off the dribble.