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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Arizona plays UCLA in Pac-12 Tournament semifinals


UCLA guard Norman Powell (4) goes to make a dunk during UCLA’s 96-70 win against USC in the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nev. on Thursday.

Las Vegas– In order to return to the Pac-12 tournament’s championship game, Arizona men’s basketball must beat a familiar foe. The No. 5 in the nation and top seeded Wildcats (29-3) face fourth seeded UCLA (20-12) Friday night at 6:00 p.m. MST on the Pac-12 Networks in the Conference of Champions’ first semifinal game.

The Bruins have defeated Arizona in the Pac-12 tournament the last two seasons. In 2014 UCLA beat the Wildcats 75-71 in the tournament’s title game.

“We obviously remember that game last year,” Arizona point guard T.J. McConnell said. “They played really well, and they obviously beat us. But you can’t look at it as we’re going to use it as extra motivation. We’ve got to take it like we’ve taken every game this year, and what we say is just play hard and if we play hard against anyone, you know, they’re going to have to play really well to beat us.”

UCLA beat archrival and 12th seeded USC (12-20) 96-70 in the quarterfinals Thursday, March 5, to advance to the semifinals. It was the Bruins’ fourth win in a row since losing 57-47 to Arizona in their only matchup of the regular season.

“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” UCLA guard Norman Powell said. “I think the guys are really excited and motivated to go out here and play against Arizona. [Ieel like we let one slip away and in Tucson [it] came down to two possessions that didn’t go our way.”

Arizona is 2-6 against UCLA on neutral courts, UA coach Sean Miller is 7-8 against the Bruins and the Wildcats are 4-6 against UCLA in their last 10 matchups.

In their February matchup, Arizona’s starters only scored 30 points, but the bench outscored UCLA’s 27-0. UA guard Gabe York scored 13 points and center Dusan Ristic had 12.

Three Bruins fouled out in Tucson.

“They’re extremely well coached and they’ve got tremendous players, tremendous talent,” UCLA coach Steve Alford said about Arizona. “I love their bench. They can come at you in waves. Thought we did a good job with the starting unit to start with, and they came in with a lot of scoring and hurt us. But it was an odd game of runs in that game.”

The Bruins could be without forward Kevon Looney in the semifinals as Looney left the USC game with a facial injury.

Looney averaged 12.3 points per game and 9.5 rebounds in the regular season, was second team All-Pac-12 and on the all-freshman team.

Alford said he didn’t know Looney’s status for the semifinal game.

I just kept looking around hoping that he was going to be coming back, but the only word that we’ve got is he’s gone with the doctors to check things out,” Alford said. “It’s some kind of facial injury. To what extent we don’t know yet. So we’re just waiting to hear back word from our UCLA doctors what the prognosis is going to be.”

The last time the Wildcats faced UCLA in the Pac-12 tournament semifinals was the infamous “he touched the ball” game. Arizona lost 66-64 to the Bruins in 2013 after Miller got called for his first technical foul of the season.

Miller complained that then UCLA guard Jordan Adams touched the ball, causing then Arizona guard Mark Lyons to dribble again, but the Pac-12 officials called Lyons for a double dribble.

“He touched the ball,” Miller said repeatedly after the game.

Friday’s game could be a must win for the Bruins if they hope to make the NCAA tournament. The Bruins are listed as the fifth team out of Big Dance according to ESPN’s bracketology on Thursday night.

“I don’t know if it’s necessarily a ‘have to play in’ game,” Alford said. “You approach it that way. But our resume looks pretty good, and I like what we’ve been able to do in a league that’s like the Pac-12. We’ve been very consistent in it the last two months, and we’re playing our best basketball.”


Follow James Kelley on Twitter.

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