Before a national television audience and an enthusiastic “white-out” crowd at McKale Center tonight, the Arizona Wildcats stumbled early and never fully recovered in a 84-73 loss to UCLA.
The Wildcats missed 12 of their first 13 shots and twice trailed by 16 points in the first half. While they cut UCLA’s lead to five points in the first half and four in the second, Arizona couldn’t make up for its early shooting and rebounding trouble despite the Bruins’ short-handed roster.
As a result, the Wildcats lost any hope of an undefeated home season and fell further behind in the Pac-12 race, two games behind first-place Oregon.
Arizona is now 16-2 overall and in a tie for third-place in the Pac-12 at 4-2. UCLA improved to 16-4 and 6-1, second place in the Pac-12, after a loss to Oregon snapped its 10-game winning streak last Saturday in Los Angeles.
The Wildcats won’t get a rematch with the Ducks after losing in Eugene, Ore., on Jan. 10 but will face UCLA in Los Angeles on March 2.
It was Arizona’s first loss at home since the Wildcats bowed quietly out of the NIT first round against Bucknell last season and it was also Arizona’s second straight loss in “white out” games, in which fans are asked to wear white and create a glowing atmosphere.
Arizona shot just 38.4 percent from the field, while UCLA made 47.8 percent of its shots and outrebounded the bigger Wildcats 45-44.
Nick Johnson led UA in scoring with 23 points while UCLA's Shabazz Muhammad led the Bruins also with 23 after saying earlier this week that he would take it upon himself to make sure UCLA won.
With four minutes left, the Wildcats still trailed by the same 10-digit margin that they did at halftime but Mark Lyons scored off Kevin Parrom’s steal and assist while the Wildcats turned quickly around for another two points when Brandon Ashley blocked Jordan Adams and Nick Johnson recovered the ball and made a layup.
But Arizona never cut it any closer the rest of the way.
The Wildcats had taken a 10-0 run midway through the second half to cut UCLA’s lead to just 55-51, taking advantage of two key Bruin absences. UCLA starting center Travis Wear did not play in the second half after he was found to have suffered concussion-like symptoms while guard Jordan Adams was out briefly with what appeared to be cramping.
The Bruins played the second half without starting center Travis Wear, who was found to have concussion-like symptoms, while Adams briefly left the UCLA bench in the second half. Adams and UCLA freshman Kyle Anderson had stomach issues earlier in the week.
In the first half, the Wildcats partially overcame their early shooting disaster to cut UCLA’s lead to as few as five points but still trailed 40-30 at halftime.
The Wildcats trailed 19-3 after seven minutes thanks to poor shooting and a lack of rebounding, their first-half woes comparable to the way they trailed Colorado by 17 points in the first half on Jan. 3 before winning in overtime.
While Arizona managed to cut the Bruins’ lead to as low as five points, they trailed by 10 at halftime while finishing the half at 31.4 percent from the field.
UCLA made 55.6 percent of its shots, similar to the 56.7 percent that Oregon shot in the first half of its Jan. 10 win over the Wildcats. The Bruins were led by Shabazz Muhammad, who had 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting.
Nick Johnson led UA with nine points and three rebounds but he was 3 of 10 from the field. Point guard Mark Lyons was 2 for 7 with four turnovers and the Wildcats had only four assists as a team.
Arizona crawled back in the game with an 11-4 run late in the second half, on four points each from Brandon Ashley and Solomon Hill, plus a three-pointer from Mark Lyons in the right corner.
It was the Wildcats’ first made three-pointer of the game out of four tries but Arizona’s real problem was making close shots.
The Wildcats hit just one of their first 10 shots from the field, and most of the misses were layups or close-in shots. While Lyons made a layup to cut UCLA’s lead to 7-3, he missed two others and had two early turnovers that helped the Bruins build their 19-3 lead.
After Nick Johnson helped UA cut UCLA’s lead to 21-9 with a dunk and layup, the Wildcats had more shooting struggles. They even missed three shots on one possession, with a putback attempt by Kaleb Tarczewski hanging on the rim before falling off.
Later, Grant Jerrett put back a miss from Solomon Hill but Arizona still trailed 21-5 with 11:47 left in the first half. UA 2-14 FG
Just as problematic as the early shooting was the Wildcats’ rebounding issues: UCLA outrebounded them 10-3 early.
Arizona trailed Colorado by 17 points in the first half of its Jan. 3 Pac-12 opener but the Wildcats won that game in overtime after a would-be game-winning shot from Colorado was ruled to have been taken after time expired.