Where's the beef? In LA, Cats learn

2011-02-27T00:00:00Z 2014-07-02T12:15:54Z Where's the beef? In LA, Cats learnPatrick Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
February 27, 2011 12:00 am  • 

LOS ANGELES - The Arizona Wildcats were bullied and bruised, and Derrick Williams was coming out of the game.

Four minutes and four seconds into the second half of Saturday's 71-49 TKO by UCLA, the Wildcats' star forward went to the bench. He stayed there for more than six minutes.

The UA trailed by 11 when he left, and 14 when he returned with 9:48 to play. The score didn't seem to matter as much as the circumstances.

Williams would finish with 15 points but struggled defensively.

"This wasn't his night," UA coach Sean Miller said. "They're very difficult, very physical down on the other end.

"Defensively right now, not just Derrick but everybody on our team, we have to answer the bell."

A boxing analogy fit Saturday's game, which saw the Bruins jab and jab and jab with their three star big men.

"Did we get handled inside this weekend?" Miller asked rhetorically. "Yes."

Reeves Nelson slashed for 27 points, Tyler Honeycutt drove for 15 and Josh Smith - looking, in a 1964 throwback jersey, like the largest man ever on a bygone team - had 17.

The three made 23 of UCLA's 28 field goals, and shot at a 64 percent clip. Everyone else in white made 29 percent.

The Bruins scored 50 points in the paint and made 13 free throws, accounting for all but eight of their points.

Hoarse, the UA coach had a message for those who think the Wildcats have been exposed by teams with physical front lines.

"They're right," he said.

The upshot, though, is that Miller said there are "not many" teams that can match UCLA's beef.

One, however, might exist a few traffic-filled freeway miles away. On Thursday, USC center Nikola Vucevic scored 25 points and grabbed 12 rebounds against the Wildcats; forward Alex Stepheson had 12 and 10.

The Trojans held Williams to 3-of-11 shooting, though he scored eight points and grabbed 11 rebounds.

"He played against two very good defensive teams," Miller said. "He'll no question be back.

"He did OK tonight. He didn't have maybe a great night. But offensively there were times when he really did a good job."

Miller turned to a little-used player for defensive help - Kyryl Natyazhko.

The Ukrainian sophomore played 16 minutes, four minutes more than his past four games combined, while trying to give the Bruins a different look. He had three rebounds and played more than at any point this season.

"Kyryl practices really hard," Miller said. "Sometimes you watch him in practice and you can't wait to see it carry over to the game. He did a nice job tonight."

At 6-foot-11, 264 pounds, Natyazhko said he knew what was needed.

"I tried to bring the energy from the bench and tried to get the starters going," he said. "The bench always has energy. That's how the team is."

Saturday, it couldn't top the mix-and-match blue crowd that said farewell to the current incarnation of Pauley Pavilion.

"Every time you play UCLA, it's a big game," Natyazhko said. "We didn't play hard enough to stop them."

An intimidating, physical front line won't be the Wildcats' strength any time soon, despite Williams - who was not made available for comment by UA officials - serving as the team's offensive centerpiece.

But that doesn't make Saturday any less disconcerting.

"We have to try to address it," Miller said. "But the other thing to keep in mind is the same team, the same front line, was 23-4. And still, a week from today, could win the Pac-10 championship.

"So it's not a strength of ours."

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