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UCLA Men’s Basketball vs. Arizona Preview: A Clash of Pac-12 Titans

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Both UCLA and Arizona head into Saturday’s match up with winning streaks on the line.

NCAA Basketball: Arizona State at UCLA Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

UCLA will host the Arizona Wildcats on Saturday afternoon at 1:00 p.m. PT riding a six game win streak after defeating Arizona State by a wide margin on Thursday. Arizona is on a win streak of their own, coming off of a win of their own across town at the Galen Center on Thursday night. Arizona travels big, so expect to see a huge Wildcat turnout at Pauley on Saturday. According to their game notes, their attendance at away games has increased attendance at their opponents’ arenas by an average of 48%. Arizona has spent the last 89 weeks ranked in the Top 25, second only to Kansas.

The Wildcats start three guards, two of which are freshman. Coming into this week, senior Kadeem Allen set and then matched his career high in scoring with 18 points in his last two games. He averaged 4.5 rebounds, 6.0 assists and 2.5 steals per game while shooting 53.3 percent from the field and 66.7 percent from beyond the arc. He is also 16 of 21 from the free throw line. Freshman Rawle Alkins has racked up 33 offensive rebounds in 18 games this season, which is something the Bruins are going to have to watch for. Limiting the Wildcats’ ability to make second chance points is going to be key if they want to walk away Saturday with the win. Alkins is on pace to have one of the best offensive rebounding seasons by a Wildcat guard since 2000. Freshman Kobi Simmons is averaging just over 30 minutes and 11.8 points per game, and is just under 78% at the foul line.

Freshman forward Lauri Markkanen hails from Finland, measures in at 7’0”, and has several pre and regular season accolades, including the John R. Wooden Award Midseason Top 25, the Karl Malone Award watch list, the Naismith Trophy Preseason watch list, and the John R. Wooden Award Preseason Top 50. He put up 30 points in 30 minutes last week against ASU, and entering this week he has scored 52 points in 52 minutes in his last two games with 60% shooting from the field (18 of 30). He is sixth in the country in scoring and 13th in the country in rebounding. This guy is going to be hard to cover and will be a huge difference maker for the Arizona offense. With a big man that can effectively score and rebound, Arizona has an offensive weapon that will be key in the outcome of the game.

Junior Dusan Ristic is a true center measuring in at 7’0”, and ranks 11th in the Pac 12 in scoring, averaging 16.6 points per game. He is also tied with his Finnish teammate for 80% at the free throw line and ranks 9th in the country for field goal percentage (56.6%). Back in December, he scored 14 of Arizona’s first 24 points against Texas A&M, and was instrumental in keeping the Wildcats from falling to the Aggies.

Back in November, sophomore guard Allonzo Trier was suspended from the team for testing positive for trace amounts of performance enhancing drugs, and has not since been cleared to play. In December, he was cleared by the NCAA to travel with the team, but has still not returned to game time action. According to tucson.com, Sean Miller calls Trier’s situation “once in a lifetime” circumstances, and has not shown leanings either way as to whether or not Trier will play at all this season. Trier claims that he has never knowingly taken a banned substance and was shocked when he tested positive. Wildcat fans have been waiting with baited breath to see Trier hit the court once again. Trier did release the following statement through U of A two days ago:

It doesn’t look like something that will magically clear up overnight. Deadspin compared Trier’s situation to Georgia lineman Kolton Houston yesterday. So, UCLA will probably not have to worry about Trier.

Go Bruins!