Las Vegas, NV – UCLA had already lost Jaylen Clark with an injury and last night lost their explosive freshman center Adem Bona to a dislocated shoulder. The short-handed Bruins took on Arizona on Saturday night for the Pac-12 Tournament title. They came up just short, with Arizona taking home a 61-59 victory.
UCLA competed evenly with the Wildcats throughout the first half and went into halftime with a 34-33 lead. Freshman Amari Bailey has picked up the scoring slack recently and led the Bruins with 10 first half points. Bailey was active and aggressive, hitting 4-of-7 shots and grabbing four rebounds. Point guard Tyger Campbell has also been looking for more offensive opportunities for himself lately and had eight points on 3-of-8 shooting. 6-10 Azuolas Tubelis was dominant offensively for the Wildcats, running the floor to create opportunities at the basket and rolling well off the pick and roll. Tubelis ended the half with 16 points and six rebounds, getting to the foul line seven times, making six. The Wildcats also received good minutes from freshman Kylan Boswell. Boswell, who has a very nice shot, went 3-of-3 on jumpers and scored seven points. The statistics were fairly even with UCLA having a +5 edge in rebounding.
UCLA came out strong in the second half, going on a 9-2 run to take a 43-35 lead. Arizona then came back on a 13-2 run of their own, highlighted by a three-pointer by Pelle Larsson to give the Wildcats a 50-48 lead. The Bruins’ back-up centers, Kenneth Nwuba and Mac Etienne, filling in for Bona, both ran into foul trouble. Each had four fouls at the 12-minute mark, with Etienne fouling out several minutes later. Kwuba fouled out with four minutes left at which point UCLA had to go small, with Jaime Jaquez Jr. playing center. At that point the score was tied at 56.
The teams then battled with little scoring in those last four minutes. A Bailey runner gave the Bruins a two-point lead while Arizona’s Ballo connected on one of two free throes to make the score 58-57. There was no scoring from the 2.5-minute mark until Courtney Ramey connected on a three-pointer with 18 seconds left off a Larsson offensive rebound. It was Ramey’s only points of the game. That gave Arizona a two-point lead. On the next possession Campbell was fouled but missed the second free throw which would have tied the game. UCLA then fouled Tubelis, who also made one of two from the line to give Arizona a two-point lead. The Bruins had one last chance. Dylan Andrews had a good look on a three-pointer from the corner bot the shot bounced out and Arizona claimed the title.
Tubelis was the main factor offensively for Arizona and finished with 19 points and 14 rebounds. Larsson was excellent all game, scoring 11 points and adding four rebounds and five assists. He also played great defense on Jaquez Jr., making things tough for the Pac-12 Player of the Year. Jaquez Jr. ended the game with 13 points on only 5-of-18 shooting. He added 10 rebounds. Bailey was very impressive for the Bruins, leading them in scoring with 18 points and had seven rebounds. Campbell added 16 points but shot 5-of-14 from the floor.
Arizona, now 28-6, now looks to get a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. UCLA (29-5) will likely also get a No. 2 seed. Both teams hope to get placed in the West Regional.