UCLA likely out of NCAA Tournament after loss to Arizona

Heading into last night’s game between UCLA and Arizona in the Pac-12 Tournament semifinal, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi had the Bruins as one of his first four teams out of the Big Dance. Their eventual 70-64 loss at the MGM Grand Garden Arena likely seals that fate.

Here’s a roundup of our coverage from Las Vegas on Friday night:

— UCLA will probably miss March Madness for the third time in six years, but one or two possessions could have changed all that.
— Mark Whicker’s column on the fight the Bruins showed at Arizona, even if they fell just short.
— The game story from UCLA’s loss to the Wildcats, the second team this season that the team faded late in a close contest against its conference rival.

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Arizona 70, UCLA 64: Kevon Looney on playing with facemask

After sustaining a facial fracture against USC on Thursday, UCLA freshman Kevon Looney wasn’t cleared to play until two hours before Friday’s 6 p.m. tipoff against Arizona. With a facemask on, however, he had trouble seeing and was wary of being hit again.

The Bruins lost 70-64, and the forward finished with five points, four rebounds and an assist in 30 minutes.

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UCLA’s Kevon Looney a game-time decision against Arizona

UPDATE: Kevon Looney’s injury is a facial fracture, but he has been cleared to play with a protective mask. He will gauge his comfort level in warm-ups, and is still officially listed as a “game-time decision” to play against Arizona.
UCLA might have its most talented player ready for its biggest game of the season.

Freshman forward Kevon Looney (facial injury) is a game-time decision for the Bruins tonight at 6 p.m. against Arizona in the Pac-12 Tournament semifinal, head coach Steve Alford told CBS Sports. Looney had averaged 12.3 points and 9.5 rebounds per game before taking a blow to the face 10 minutes into Thursday’s win over USC. UCLA remains on the NCAA Tournament bubble, with a chance at a bid likely hinging on whether or not it can beat the top-seeded Wildcats.

“He got hit in the face pretty hard,” point guard Bryce Alford said yesterday. “He had a pretty swollen eye. He looked all right, though, right after he got hit.”

Center Tony Parker was in a more jocular mood: “Not worried. He’s already ugly.”

The likely NBA lottery pick also grabbed the Bruins’ only offensive rebound against Arizona — the nation’s best defensive rebounding team — in a 57-47 loss at the McKale Center last month.

If Looney isn’t ready, the team will likely start freshman Gyorgy Goloman. The 6-foot-10 reserve averages 1.5 points and 1.5 rebounds in 10.9 minutes per game, but had six points, seven rebounds and three assists in 28 minutes against the Trojans.

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At a glance: UCLA vs. No. 5 Arizona

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.

If Looney is indeed out, UCLA will be in for a rough night. Continue reading

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