Well that was a tough finish. While the Bruins were not on their A-game today in Tuscon, the Arizona Wildcats compensated by also playing down a notch or two - surprisingly for a Senior Day in McKale Center. In the end, the home advantage was just enough to see Arizona through to a 65-63 win in a game that clearly displayed why the Pac-12 is by far the weakest of the 'power conferences' in 2012. As DCBruins explained on Friday, this was a must-win game for UCLA to have a shot at gaining one of the top-4 seeds in the Pac-12 tournament and the accompanying 1st round bye. The Bruins are now 9-7 in conference play, and a near-certain presence on the 1st day of the conference tournament. Any hope of UCLA avoiding a 2nd miss of March Madness in the last 3 seasons now depends on winning 4 games in 4 days at Staples Center.
Arizona had simply an awful shooting day today, hitting just 37% from the field and 6 of 18 3-point attempts. And while the size mismatch between Zona's rotation and the Bruin bigs was a big point coming in, it was Tyler Lamb whose defense really helped keep the Bruins in this game until the final minute. He spent a lot of time on Kyle Fogg, whose 18 points on the final line masked his 4-11 performance from the field. Tyler was not as hot on the offensive end - and made a critical turnover with 30 seconds left - but did hit a couple of key shots among his 11 points. Jerime Anderson was the clear offensive standout for the Bruins, scoring 20 points on 9-15 shooting. On the flip side, Lazeric Jones had one of his worst offensive days as a Bruin - he dished out 5 assists, but suffered through a painful 1-12 performance from the field, with no made 3 pointers and no trips to the line.
Fouls and the free throw shooting skills of the Bruins and Wildcats were a major factor in this game from the start. Joshua Smith entered the game off the bench as part of Coach Howland's strategy to protect him from early foul trouble. It didn't work today, as Josh picked up a pair of quick fouls to send him back to the bench, to pick up a 3rd before halftime. In sum, he was limited to just 14 minutes on the court, enough to hit 3 shots from the field (9 points total) and bring in 5 rebounds.Tyler Lamb and Zeek also finished the game with 4 fouls. The Bruins finished the game with 24 team fouls, from which the Wildcats took the decisive advantage, hitting 23-32 from the line (their shooters faded a bit in the final couple of minutes). As usual, UCLA did not take full advantage of the opportunities that they did earn from the line, making just 11-18 of their free throws. Of course, strategic moves to minimize the foul problem, such as playing a few possessions of zone D to help protect Josh were not on Howland's mind today - or most days.
For a team with the height advantage playing man-to-man D, the Bruins were not taking much of an advantage on the boards. The team did convert several second-chance opportunities, but the rebounding margin was even until the final two minutes this afternoon. The Wear's combined for 16 of the team's 37 rebounds, but you never get the feeling that they are playing to their full (6 foot 10) advantage on defense.
This was the final road game of the season for UCLA - the regular season concludes next week against the Washington schools at the Sports Arena, with the Pac-12 Tournament being contested the following week at Staples Center. Even in the context of the sub-mediocrity that is this season's Pac-12 Conference, UCLA Basketball is a total mess. At this point it is hard not to ask what is up with Chancellor Block's acceptance of the status quo in
Pauley the Sports Arena and in Morgan Center. If incompetent job performance is not enough to dim Dan in his eyes, will it take some kind of national scandal for Gene to be completely humiliated enough to fire Dan Guerrero? Would that even be enough to break the Chianti Bond?
This is your post-Arizona game thread. Have at it folks.