UCLA News Roundup: UCLA Earns a PAC 12 Championship Game Berth

Travis Wear has had two very impressive games in a row. - Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

UCLA demolish Stanford for its second impressive win in a row

As Nestor said, the Stanford victory 84-59was the best effort since the game at UC Berkeley.   75NationalChamps credibly argues it was more significant because it was the second game.  However, actually this was the best back-to-back game since UCLA destroyed Northwestern in . . .Las Vegas earlier this year.

Cynics and program defenders will get to see what the Bruins are really made of as UCLA plays tonight against Arizona.  More importantly this is what the players wanted.

It was not to be spoken out loud, maybe here and there it would slip out, but Travis Wear certainly wasn't going to hide his feelings Friday.

"Obviously, we wanted another chance at them," Wear said of fourth-ranked Arizona. "We only got the one opportunity to play them. This is big." . . .

"This is the rivalry everyone came here to watch," UCLA senior Travis Wear said.

Coach Steve Alford said that "you could spend weeks talking about this tradition." But first and foremost, "We're 40 minutes from a championship. We have to show up ready. Arizona was the best defensive team we faced all season. Our players know that."

Before we talk more about Arizona, what does Stanford say about the beating UCLA gave them:

The game could not have started worse for the Cardinal.

Stanford scored just two points on its first seven possessions, shooting 1 for 4 with three turnovers.

UCLA took advantage by jumping to a 14-2 lead, which prompted Dawkins to make a hockey-style lineup change with 16:10 left in the half. He sent Robbie Lemons, John Gage, Grant Verhoeven and Marcus Allen into the game to join lone surviving starter Randle.

Gage delivered, sinking a 3-pointer on the first trip down the floor after the subs went in. But the Bruins answered with two baskets to chase the reserves from the floor, and the onslaught continued.

Three more UCLA baskets and it was 24-5 after a tipin by Anderson with 12:10 left. To that point, the Bruins had failed to convert only two of 13 possessions for points.

The starting lineup of Travis Wear, David Wear Kyle Anderson, Jordan Adams, and Norman Powell has been a revelation the last couple games.

But in its quarterfinal rout of Oregon on Thursday and again in an even more thorough 84-59 blowout of Stanford a night later, that ever-looming storm descended and lightning finally struck.

In two consecutive games, UCLA had never looked so intimidating. The Bruins ran up and down with Oregon. They neutralized Stanford's size. The only team that's looked even close to as daunting this season awaits on Saturday in UCLA's second straight Pac-12 tournament title game.

. . . {Travis] Wear finished 8 of 8 from the field - the best shooting performance of his UCLA career - and had 16 points. In spite of a downtick in his numbers as a senior, Wear has 30 points in his past two games.

Norman Powell, another veteran, was just as hot, racking up a team-high 22 points.

Travis has been phenomenal during the tournament so far in 60 minutes he is 14-16 (2-2 from three) with 6 assists.  Yet the other "veteran" deserves a shout out for offense AND his defense last night.  Norman Powell:

[Steve Alford]"Norman was a huge key tonight. [Chasson] Randle was very big and important. When they beat us in Palo Alto, he had 26. So, to hold him to 11 points, well below his average the last five games. Norman had that assignment a lot. Bryce then off the bench. But the job that was done on Randle, I thought was a big key for us. For Norman to do that and provide the offense, it was a really good overall game for him."

UCLA guard Norman Powell

on whether he wanted to play with an aggressive mentality

"Yeah, definitely. I had a big assignment today in guarding [Chasson] Randle. He's what makes Stanford go. I just wanted to help my team any way possible in stopping him and getting on the break. My team did a great job of finding me and getting to the rim. I was able to finish and get to the free-throw line and knock down free throws. I just wanted to help my team win in any way possible."

The defense has played better and the starting offense has looked not good but great.  Here are some more numbers.

Norman Powell scored a season-high 22 points and Travis Wear added 16 as the Bruins led wire-to-wire in the semifinals of the Pac-12 tournament in Las Vegas.Kyle Anderson collected 13 points, eight rebounds and seven assists for No. 2 seed UCLA (25-8), which shot 65.2 percent and advanced to face top-seeded Arizona in Saturday's championship game. The Bruins, who will look to avenge a 79-75 loss to the Wildcats on Jan. 9, have won their first two tournament games by an average of 22 points.

As we have been saying throughout the year, perspective is needed.  Oregon is a bad defense team, ranked 90 by Kenpom in adjusted defense, which is probably a bit high in reality.  Stanford is better at 60. (UCLA a team without a rim protector is ranked 50, better than both.)  However Arizona is number one.  Also by the eye test Arizona is the best defensive in the country.

classic match-up of the conference's best offense team and the best defensive team.

"Arizona is obviously one of the top teams in the country defensively," Wear said, "Both of us can score the ball. It's going to be a good game."

The Wildcats gave up more points than in any game this season in their only other matchup with UCLA, a 79-75 win at Pauley Pavilion on Jan. 9. Arizona blew a 13-point lead late in the game, but conference player of the year Nick Johnson's basket with 1:27 to go put the Wildcats ahead for good.

They held the Bruins to five points after that and made eight of 10 free throws down the stretch. Johnson finished with 22 points while Anderson and Jordan Adams posted double-doubles for UCLA, which was outshot 53.8 percent to 40.0.

The win snapped a three-game losing streak in the series for Arizona.

A win against Arizona is something to crow about and would be the best win of the season by far and the first over a top ranked team.  In reality though as the above article mentions, UCLA has more to play for.  Arizona has locked up a number one seed in the tournament.  UCLA could definitely improve its seeding with a win which would make getting to the second weekend of the NCAA tournament ( a minimal UCLA goal every season) much easier.  Regardless it is UCLA-Arizona.  Everyone should be pumped.

Go Bruins!

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