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.
Less than half an hour after decommitting from Arizona, three-star defensive lineman Jake Burton announced a new pledge to UCLA.
The 6-foot-6, 255-pound end committed to the Bruins on Monday night, giving them another big body in the trenches. After UCLA’s season-ending loss to Nebraska in the Foster Farms Bowl, head coach Jim Mora had emphasized the need to recruit “more guys that can roll through there that have some girth to them,” Mora said, “so we don’t get pushed around.”
The El Cajon (Calif.) Granite Hills product is fourth 2016 defensive line prospect to pick the Bruins, joining Osa Odighizua, Marcus Moore, and JUCO transfer Nick Terry. Outside linebacker Breland Brandt, who is already enrolled at UCLA, could also potentially play defensive end.