UCLA’s upset plans get fouled up at No. 7 Arizona, 57-47
There was a collision above the paint, and Arizona point guard T.J. McConnell went down. UCLA guard Isaac Hamilton raised his hand and stared at the referee, as if to plead.
Hamilton’s hand dropped. The foul was on UCLA’s Kevon Looney, his fifth. Looney chuckled and jogged to the bench.
There, he joined Tony Parker and Thomas Welsh, who also fouled out. If the Bruins were to complete an unlikely comeback, in likely their most important game of the season, they’d have to do it without any big men for the game’s final 3 minutes 22 seconds.
The task ultimately was taller than the remaining players. No. 7 Arizona outrebounded won, 57-47.
It was an unusual end to an unusual game Saturday. Both teams, for stretches, appeared to take over. Then each would disappear. Arizona went scoreless for the game’s first six minutes and almost the first seven minutes of the second half. UCLA had its own five-minute drought and its own 17-0 run.
“Obviously, we’re not into moral victories,” UCLA Coach Steve Alford said. “But I really liked how our guys fought tonight.”
The loss leaves UCLA scrambling for an NCAA tournament bid. UCLA (16-12, 8-7 in the Pac-12 Conference) is tied for fourth in the conference standings. A chance at a 20-win regular season is also gone.
“We know we don’t have any control over any of that,” Bryce Alford said. “We don’t get to decide if we’re in or not.”
After UCLA’s 7-0 run to start the first half, Arizona (24-3, 12-2) took a 14-point lead at the half, and its bench players, who had 24 first-half points, outscored UCLA’s entire team. By halftime, Looney and Norman Powell had two fouls. Parker had three, and would foul out after playing just 16 minutes.
Then UCLA started the second half with a Looney three-point basket, then another Looney basket. The second half, at least, would be competitive. Then UCLA made another shot and another and more and suddenly, they had, shockingly, regained the lead with a 17-0 run.
But UCLA’s foul trouble lingered. Parker fouled out with 9 1/2 minutes remaining. His replacement, Welsh, fouled out less than five minutes later. Arizona’s Gabe York made a three-pointer, then Stanley Johnson finished through traffic, and Arizona led by six points. Looney’s departure left no doubt.
Arizona’s leading scorers were bench players York, who had 13 points, and Dusan Ristic, who scored all 12 points in the first half. He averages just nine minutes and 3.5 points per game this season.
Bryce Alford scored 22 points to lead UCLA. Parker finished with two points and one rebound.
Afterward, Steve Alford was resigned but encouraged.
“I thought we did a lot of good things,” he said.
His team limited transition. McConnell was the only Arizona starter in double figures. UCLA’s defense, it seems, is starting to click.
“It’s late in the game, late in the season, guys are really focusing and understanding how to play with going on runs and getting runs put on you,” Powell said.
Saturday’s game, the team indicated, was evidence of that. Now, they hope it’s not too late.
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