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.
UCLA center Thomas Welsh is one of 24 players participating in the USA Basketball U19 training camp. He is pictured here stretches before a practice on Oct. 14, 2014, at the Student Activities Center. (Michael Owen Baker/Staff)
UCLA center Thomas Welsh could have a chance to represent his country this summer.
The 7-footer was one of 24 players picked to participate in 2015 USA Basketball Men’s U19 World Championship Team training camp, which will take place June 12-26. Held at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, the event will determine which 12 players are selected for the U19 national team, one that will play in Greece from June 27 to July 5.
Welsh, who will be a sophomore in the 2015-16 season, averaged 3.8 points and 3.8 rebounds in his first season for the Bruins. A former McDonald’s All-American showed spurts of promise, scoring 14 points in UCLA’s season-opening 113-78 win over Montana State. In a round-of-64 upset of fifth-seeded SMU, he had six rebounds and four blocks, and was on the floor in the final minutes in place of junior Tony Parker.
Unsurprisingly for a young big man, Welsh struggled at times with foul trouble, committing 6.0 fouls per 40 minutes. The center also took 59.1 percent of his shots on 2-point jumpers, nearly double the team average.
The U19 team will be coached by Arizona’s Sean Miller. He will be assisted by his younger brother, Dayton’s Archie Miller, and Providence’s Ed Cooley.
UCLA pulled out a big 66-64 victory against Arizona to advance to the Pac-12 title game, but the cost was a season-ending broken foot for Jordan Adams (story here). The freshman guard erupted for 18 second-half points, including 13 straight, as the Bruins beat the Wildcats for the third time this season.
Tomorrow’s 8 p.m. tipoff (ESPN) pits UCLA against Oregon — a tough matchup for the Bruins even with Adams.