UCLA rolls Stanford, 84-59, to get to Arizona in Pac-12 tournament final
LAS VEGAS — This has been the tacit understanding in the UCLA locker room for more than two months.
It was not to be spoken out loud, maybe here and there it would slip out, but Travis Wear certainly wasn’t going to hide his feelings Friday.
“Obviously, we wanted another chance at them,” Wear said of fourth-ranked Arizona. “We only got the one opportunity to play them. This is big.”
The Bruins got their wish because of an 84-59 victory over Stanford in the MGM Grand Garden Arena. It put UCLA in the Pac-12 tournament final against the Wildcats.
This is what the Bruins — and Pac-12 officials — have dreamed about. A marquee game between the conference’s Hatfields and McCoys in Las Vegas This is no $4.99 shrimp cocktail. This should be a slab of prime rib.
This game has hung out there for a week, like a carrot, for the Bruins, who had lost their only game with the Wildcats this season.
“This is the rivalry everyone wants to see,” Wear said.
Coach Steve Alford said that “you could spend weeks talking about this tradition.” But first and foremost, “We’re 40 minutes from a championship. We have to show up ready. Arizona was the best defensive team we faced all season. Our players know that.”
The Bruins (25-8) prepped for this moment with their best wire-to-wire performance of the season. It was clear early on that the Cardinal (21-12) was in too deep.
Norman Powell scored 22 points, making seven of 10 shots. Travis Wear was a perfect eight-for-eight and finished with 16 points. Kyle Anderson, as usual, ran this business meeting, finishing with 13 points, eight rebounds and seven assists.
More important, this was demon slaying by the Bruins. For the first time in Pac-12 play this season they linked back-to-back victories during a trip away from Pauley Pavilion.
Alford chewed the team out after a loss at Oregon State. He justified the series of road splits as being part of Pac-12 life. He complimented Washington State’s fine play after the Cougars shot 37% and beat the Bruins.
Alford turned to music to soothe this beast of a problem. He played it throughout practices leading up to the conference tournament.
Not exactly from the Coaching 101 handbook, but whatever works.
The Cardinal was one of the four Pac-12 teams that the Bruins tripped over during the regular season. Stanford shot 62% in a 83-74 victory Palo Alto.
The Bruins made it clear early there would be no repeat.
“It was something we had to deal with, and I guess we have,” guard Jordan Adams said,.
UCLA made nine of its first 13 shots and jumped to a 24-5 lead. The Cardinal was in the rearview mirror the rest of the night.
That seemed fine with Arizona fans. Those who remained after the Wildcats beat Colorado in the first semifinal offered up “U. of A.” chants throughout the game to remind the Bruins what was coming.
UCLA players have been quietly itching for this game since losing to the Wildcats, 79-75, in January.
A year ago, the Bruins swept the Wildcats, including a 66-64 victory in the Pac-12 semifinals.
UCLA has a 4-2 record against Arizona in the conference tournament, but 0-1 in the championship game.
Go beyond the scoreboard
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