UCLA is hindered by fouls in 81-75 loss to No. 17 Arizona

UCLA is hindered by fouls in 81-75 loss to No. 17 Arizona
UCLA guard Bryce Alford (20) brings the ball up against against Arizona during the first halfon Friday. (Rick Scuteri / AP)

On UCLA's 26th foul, Tony Parker threw up his hands. His eyebrows darted up his forehead.

The McKale Center, where No. 17 Arizona plays its home games, can have that effect. Now it had turned Parker incredulous: with about six minutes remaining, UCLA's commanding halftime lead was evaporating amid the din of roaring fans and officials' whistles.

Forty-two seconds earlier, after UCLA's 25th foul of the evening, center Thomas Welsh had fouled out too.

A close game turned into a mismatch. Arizona won, 81-75, another blow to a UCLA season on life support.


After the game, UCLA Coach Steve Alford said just about everything shy of directly criticizing the officiating crew. His argument: UCLA committed 31 fouls, to Arizona's 19. That tied UCLA's season high, set in a double-overtime loss to Washington in January.


Arizona shot 45 free throws. UCLA shot 16.

"We're not going to win a game, 45-16," Alford said. "It was dominance at the free-throw line."

Alford spoke for 4 minutes 31 seconds after the game. Almost all of that time was spent pondering those foul numbers.

"I thought we guarded pretty well," Alford said.

"I'll have to watch the tape and see if we fouled 31 times, I guess," he said.

"Hopefully we won't foul as much as the next one," he said, dryly.

One reporter mentioned that the three officials, Dave Hall, Verne Harris and Dick Cartmell, have all presided over Final Fours.

"I can't make any comments," Alford said. "You know, I've won a national championship as a player too. There are nights as a player when I wasn't very good."

Despite Alford's displeasure, UCLA (13-11, 4-7 Pac-12) still had a chance to win.

It dominated the first half. After an early 8-0 Arizona run, the Bruins hounded Arizona. The Wildcats made just eight field goals in the half. Arizona forward Ryan Anderson, who was recently named the Oscar Robertson national player of the week, made one the entire period.

Meanwhile, UCLA guard Isaac Hamilton was again lethal and efficient — he made 10 of 15 field goals overall for a game-high 24 points — and UCLA surged to a 17-4 run.

The Bruins led, 44-34, at halftime. But Welsh had already earned three fouls.

The foul outs, though, were just the climax of Arizona's late charge. Beginning with nine minutes left, down by seven points, Arizona scored eight points in a row.

Only then did Welsh foul out, followed by Parker. Welsh finished with six points in 14 minutes. Parker scored seven in 20. The only other time Welsh and Parker have both fouled out was last season, at Arizona.

For Arizona (20-5, 8-4), Anderson finished with 11 points and 13 rebounds, and Allonzo Trier led the team with 18 points.

After the game, Hamilton wondered whether UCLA would've won, if not for all the fouls.

"You're giving the other team points," he said. "But honestly, we didn't rebound as well. So give and take. You don't really know."

Point guard Bryce Alford, who scored 17 points, sounded conciliatory.

"We got some calls at the end of the first half," he said. "You can't really blame anything on the officials. You play on the road, you're probably not going to get as many calls."

The loss is a hard one for UCLA, but it has not done itself any favors this season. The Bruins are struggling just to stay in the NCAA tournament discussion.

Its middling record is partially offset by three significant wins, over Kentucky, Gonzaga and Arizona in January. But a fourth may be necessary to secure a tournament berth.

UCLA came close Friday. But Arizona owned the boards in the final six minutes, when, Steve Alford was quick to note, "we've got both centers sitting next to me."

UCLA Up Next

Sunday vs. Arizona State, 5:30 p.m., Wells Fargo Arena, Tempe, Ariz., ESPNU — UCLA, with its NCAA tournament hopes on life support, can't afford a loss to the Sun Devils.

Follow Zach Helfand on Twitter: @zhelfand