This was the game that pretty much everybody knew was going to happen at one point in this tournament, and even better, a game that everybody wanted to see. This game featured the absolute without a doubt two best players in the Pac-12 Conference, Aaron Holiday of UCLA and Deandre Ayton of Arizona.
The Bruins were the only road team to be able to come into Tuscon and beat the Wildcats. They did so on February 8th beating the Wildcats 82-74, and the Bruins were absolutely on fire that game shooting over 50% from the field and over 40% from behind the arc.
Going into the first timeout, called by Arizona, both teams were playing some high level basketball. There were really no stoppages of play and both teams were playing well. For the Bruins, they were shooting both 50% from the field and from beyond the arc. Prince Ali, shockingly was leading the Bruins with 5 points, but each Bruin had already scored at least two points. So the scoring balance was good at that point, and the Bruins were up 15-11.
Bruins came out in a match-up zone, and the Arizona big men started to attack, and the Bruins went cold as they continued to jack up three point shots with reckless abandon, as quick as they were 50% from behind the arc, they went to 3-9. UCLA went into the first TV timeout still up 17-15.
The Bruins and Wildcats struggled to make shots from that point. The Bruins went on a scoring funk and a streak of 2-11 from the field going into the media timeout, but as Arizona attacked the zone early, they could not figure it out during the next stretch and went on a scoring drought of their own for over 3:00 minutes as the Bruins were up 22-16 at the 7:01 mark.
Allonzo Trier made his presence known with an ugly back-rim 3-point shot that went in and that seemed to propel the Wildcats as they went on a run and actually took the lead at the 4:22 mark 23-22. That lead was short-lived as GG Goloman went Dominique Wilkins and followed up a miss with a huge dunk to put the Bruins back up 24-23. Aaron Holiday then went on a little mini run, as he hit a half-hook in the lane, and then posted up Jackson-Cartwright and was fouled in the act of shooting. Holiday’s two free-throws put the Bruins up 28-23 at the 2:17 mark.
There was not much scoring from that point, and the Bruins went into the half with the lead 30-26.
First Half Takeaways
- Live by the three die by the three. The Bruins shot 4-17 from behind the arc, luckily Arizona shot 3-13.
- The Bruins were up 22-13 in rebounding, with Welsh grabbing 11 of them.
- The Bruins actually played defense this half.
- Holiday was 1-5 from beyond the arc.
- The effort of the Bruins was at an elite level during the first half, and their defense held the Wildcats to 26 points. Trier had 3 points and Ayton had 7.
The Wildcats came out with their two best players scoring early. Trier hit a three and Ayton hit a shot as well, and Arizona proceeded to go on a quick 7-0 run that promoted Alford and UCLA to call an early timeout at the 18:31 mark.
Out of the timeout, UCLA’s GG Goloman missed Holiday on a possible back-screen alley-oop, but Welsh made up for the missed read by GG by hitting a three point shot. Arizona scored on their next possession, but Welsh came back and hit another three pointer and a fade-away that sandwiched between an Ayton dunk. The score was tied at this point 38-38.
Arizona continued to pour it on the Bruins with Jackson-Cartwright hitting a three, Ristic hitting an open jumper, and Trier being fouled on a break-away lay-up attempt and hitting 1-2 FT’s, The Wildcats were up 44-38 at that point.
At the 12:28 mark of the second half, Arizona had scored 26 points, and they only scored 26 points in the entire first half. The Pac-12 Conference Player of the Year, Deandre Ayton show was on its way as he had scored 10 points in the half.
The UCLA Bruins and Thomas Welsh kept the game close going into the media timeout at the 7:45 mark. Welsh was 5-6 for 12 points at this point of the second half with 5 rebounds. Thanks to a 3:12 scoring drought by the Wildcats, the Bruins were able to pull within three at 55-52.
Out of the media timeout, the Bruins and Wildcats exchanged haymakers. With the biggest haymaker being Kris Wilkes’ coast-to-coast one handed jam to tie the game 60-60 at the 4:41 mark. That shot prompted Miller to call an Arizona timeout.
Out of the timeout, in what was one of the plays of the game in my opinion, Trier was forced to shot a desperation three point shot that hit nothing, but Hands was caught flat-footed and Rawle Alkins grabbed the rebound and was fouled in the act, and he hit 1-2 FT’s to put Arizona up 61-60. On UCLA’s next possession, Holiday drove to the basket, and was met in the air by two Arizona defenders and missed the shot. Holiday screamed for a foul. Then Arizona came right down, and as well as the Pac-12 refs called this game, a phantom looking foul was called that put Ayton on the line. Ayton hit both to put the Wildcats up 63-60 a the 3:30 mark.
UCLA’s next possession was horrible, there was no ball movement or player movement as Holiday dominated the ball and shot a well-defended three that was missed. UCLA was lucky and able to turnover the Wildcats on their next possession and a streaking Wilkes was able to dunk it for the Bruins on an assist by Hands. Ayton came right back at UCLA with a shot to put the Wildcats up 65-62. UCLA’s player of the game, Thomas Welsh answered with a three-point shot to tie the game at 65 at the 1:47 mark. Arizona answered with Ayton once again hitting a shot to put the Wildcats up 67-65 with 1:10 remaining. Hands then hit a huge layup to tie the game at 67-67.
The Bruins had a chance to win the game as Holiday shot a running three point shot that was online, but missed. The game headed to overtime.
UCLA got the ball to start overtime, but Wilkes turned the ball over on UCLA’s possession. Arizona came down and Ayton was fouled on his put-back attempt and hit 1-2 FT’s to put Arizona up 68-67. Holiday could not convert on the next possession, but once again Ayton scored to put Arizona up 70-67. Hands tried to play hero ball on UCLA’s possession, dominated the ball and shot a horrible three point shot that barely hit rim. Once again Ayton came down and scored to put the Wildcats up 72-67. Wilkes then missed a three point shot. Arizona’s Ayton was called for a charge on their next time with the ball, but UCLA still could not score, as the next possession had Holiday shooting a contested three point shot that rimmed out. Arizona then took the next possession, and Trier drove to the basket and missed, and guess who tipped it in? Deandre Ayton did for his 32nd point and 14th rebound all in the same play. That put the Wildcats up 74-67 and sealed the deal for Arizona.
This was an absolute classic Pac-12 Conference Tournament game. Deandre Ayton absolutely took the game over for the Arizona Wildcats, and without a shadow of a doubt, 100% cemented his number one position in the 2018 NBA Draft. Please, somebody tell me who is better? I continue to say that he is the best Pac-12 center that most of us have watched in our time watching Pac-10 or Pac-12 basketball.
UCLA played tough and gritty basketball, but we talked about living and dying from the three. The Bruins just died. They were 10-35 from behind the arc, and multiple UCLA possessions resulted in the shot clock running down, and UCLA bigs screening at the top of the arc, which would then result in tough three point shots. UCLA missed their last seven three point shots.
UCLA will definitely make it in to the NCAA Tournament. They will most likely be an 11 seed, and be matched up against a tough opponent in somewhere like Pittsburgh.
UCLA Player Grades
Aaron Holiday: C-
5-20 and 3-12 from behind the arc. His poor shooting, sadly was the difference in the game.
Thomas Welsh: A
Welsh almost single-handedly kept the Bruins in the game during the second half. 17 points and 17 rebounds.
Gyorgy Goloman: C+
Goloman played a solid game for the Bruins.
Jaylen Hands: D+
Hands gave up a huge rebound on Trier’s air ball in the second half, hit a HUGE shot to tie the game, then shot a horrible hero ball three in OT.
Prince Ali: D
Scored 5 points in like the first five minutes and was never a factor in any way from that point.
Alex Olesinski: D
0-2 from the field and was absolutely not a factor in the game offensively.
Kris Wilkes: C
Wilkes had almost the play of the night with his coast-to-coast dunk, but on UCLA’s first possession in OT, he turned the ball over and it went downhill for UCLA from there.
Chris Smith: D
Smith was not much of a factor in this game.