Steve Alford is a hard coach to figure out. He has a 3-2 record in 5 games against Kentucky and now he is the coach who wins at Arizona’s home arena, the McKale Center. As Bruce Pascoe of the Arizona Daily Star writes:
With three wins in Tucson against Miller, UCLA has given the Wildcats the most trouble at McKale.
Or this diddy from Justin Spears of the Arizona Star:
Since 2013, Arizona has only lost at home three times: Oregon (2016) and UCLA twice in back-to-back seasons including Thursday night.
Keep in mind, Alford almost beat Arizona two seasons ago with a bad team but for the foul shots being 45-16. Alford could easily be 3-1 at McKale. McKale is one of the toughest places to play in the country. Why does UCLA play so well at McKale? There are a couple reasons but let’s start with the offense last night with one more Arizona Daily Star quote:
UCLA averaged 1.18 points per possession, and if you don’t follow the metrics, that’s historically good. Or, if you’re Arizona, historically bad.
UCLA embarrassed Arizona but, unlike Sean Miller, Alford kept it classy as that article points out and did not call a last second timeout as Miller did in the last Arizona-UCLA game. The Daily Bruin has some collegiate fun poking the whiny fans of Arizona when Hanson Wang writes:
UCLA faced its most raucous atmosphere of the season, against a ranked opponent, no less.
One sign in the McKale Center student section read “Steve Alford lost his balls,” taking a jab at the Ball family’s departure from UCLA’s program.
Good thing Alford still has hot Hands.
What did Hands do? Well, there’s some more cattiness from Arizona Daily Star:
Let’s see a show of hands: Unless you work for Rivals.com or the Pac-12 Networks, had you ever heard of UCLA freshman guard Jaylen Hands before Thursday?
He’s a remarkable prospect and if he stays at UCLA for another year or two, he’ll likely be an all-Pac-12 player. But until Thursday, Hands was shooting 41 percent and was just another guy.
When the Bruins opened by missing their first six 3-point shots — leading by just 35-33 with 54 seconds before halftime — Hands had two points.
And then in what turned out to be 54 fatal seconds, Hands swished three consecutive 3-balls, each one deeper than the one before. He scored nine points in 54 seconds. Arizona didn’t even put a hand in his face.
Uhm. I think that is wrong on the defense part. As the excellent reporter Thuc Nhi Nguyen writes over at the Daily News:
Hands hit three consecutive 3-pointers to finish the first half, the last of which was a 30-footer that splashed through the net with one second remaining.
As Hands said:
“I made the first one, so I was like, ‘I’m going to shoot another one,’” Hands said. “After I made that one, I was for sure going to shoot the third one. We had nine seconds left (in the half) and I just shot that one too.”
Nyguen points out the excellent defense the Bruins played and what it means:
UCLA had only one true road win this season entering Thursday. The Bruins lost a double-digit, second-half lead against Michigan and did it again against Stanford.. . .
Arizona’s pair of 7-footers, Ayton and Dusan Ristic, combined for 27 points on 12-of-27 shooting. Ayton, who is a potential No. 1 draft pick this summer, had 12 rebounds with his 16 points, but the Bruins still almost tied the Wildcats on the boards (35-34 in favor of Arizona). . . .
The win gives the Bruins a coveted road victory over a team ranked within the top-75 in the RPI that will boost their NCAA Tournament hopes.
But the reality, this was a great night to be a Bruin, as Ben Bolch of the LA Times notes.
Fans started leaving the McKale Center after Bruins forward Kris Wilkes made a three-pointer to give his team a 12-point lead with about 2½ minutes left. More departed after Arizona’s Brandon Randolph missed a jumper. The aisles finally became jammed when UCLA’s GG Goloman drained a three-pointer, wiggling his fingers for fun on his way back down the court.
”It’s a great feeling,” said Goloman, a senior, “especially since this was my last time walking off this court in my career.”