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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    ‘Cats show no fight in UCLA rout

    UA guard Nic Wise drives to the basket on UCLA guard Russell Westbrook during the Wildcats 82-60 loss Saturday at No. 5 UCLA. Arizona fell behind early and never mounted a comeback in its largest margin of defeat of the season.
    UA guard Nic Wise drives to the basket on UCLA guard Russell Westbrook during the Wildcats’ 82-60 loss Saturday at No. 5 UCLA. Arizona fell behind early and never mounted a comeback in its largest margin of defeat of the season.


    LOS ANGELES – Before Saturday, UA interim head coach Kevin O’Neill never blamed his team’s effort over the course of a game for a loss.

    The Wildcats have played the toughest schedule in the nation, going blow for blow with No. 2 Kansas and competing hard against No. 1 Memphis. They have fought through double-digit deficits, injuries and the bizarre Lute Olson leave of absence situation at the beginning of the season.

    Unlike Arizona teams of the past few years, it became a squad that would give effort, fight through adversity and more often than not, win, at least when guard Jerryd Bayless has been in the lineup.

    Then in the Pauley Pavilion against No. 5 UCLA on Saturday, we saw Luc Richard Mbah a Moute dive on the floor for a loose ball, Alfred Aboya jump into the crowd to save a ball sure to go out of bounds, Kevin Love rip a tipped ball away from Jordan Hill, Russell Westbrook steal it from Bayless and Darren Collison take it away from Jawann McClellan.

    “”The disappointing thing to me is we have been a team that’s had a lot of fight all year, and we had no fight at all,”” O’Neill said. “”Take nothing away from them, they just went after us, dominated us from the very beginning to the end.

    “”I’ve been very proud of this team’s effort with a few exceptions all year long, and today there was nothing to be proud of at all from top to bottom.””

    If there was a loose ball to be had, the Bruins pounced on it. If a Wildcat dribbled carelessly, his UCLA counterpart was sure to strip it away.

    Arizona did not look anything like the confident bunch that had won four in a row, including the last three over then-No. 6 Washington State, Washington and at USC by double digits.

    That UA squad showed some swagger. The team that played the Bruins just had something missing.

    “”We have been a real fight team all year. We did not fight,”” O’Neill said. “”It’s the first time all year. If you would have told us at the start of the year we would go 22 games and not fight one game I would have taken it, but when the most recent memory is that it doesn’t feel very good.””

    To add insult to injury, TV cameras caught some UCLA players laughing in the second half. They may as well have been laughing at what’s happened to this rivalry, as the Bruins won for the sixth straight time with their biggest victory in the series since 1983, before Olson came to Arizona.

    “”They were laughing, but they were having fun,”” McClellan said. “”I take that as disrespect, but what can you do? They were playing well. They should deserve to laugh. Now if we don’t take that personally next time we come out and play them then something’s wrong with us.””

    In the short term, O’Neill pointed out that the Wildcats got the split everybody was talking about entering the trip, probably the best the team could hope for with O’Neill himself saying earlier in the week he did not see his team sweeping.

    A loss is a loss whether you lose by one or 22, so it won’t matter that Arizona got blown out in the standings, where the Wildcats are tied for third in a mushed up Pacific 10 Conference with six teams separated by one game.

    But that doesn’t make it feel any better for Arizona.

    “”Tonight when you go to sleep it better be running through your mind, but tomorrow you’ve got to forget about it,”” said forward Bret Brielmaier. “”This was just a roadblock or a setback, so it’s something to learn from. Something we need to become is more like them.””

    That won’t be easy with the Bruins being the class of the conference, coming off back-to-back Final Fours and being even better this year by O’Neill’s estimation.

    McClellan said a loss like this can help come Tournament time but what upset him is that the team lacked emotion and passion in a game forward Jordan Hill said he was surprised his team just wasn’t ready for.

    Forward Chase Budinger added the Wildcats let UCLA’s physical play get to them.

    “”We knew it was going to come, but we just never responded to that,”” he said.

    In what was billed as a heavyweight fight with the presence of ESPN College Game-Day crew, Arizona took the first punch and never fought back, letting UCLA wail on them the rest of the game.

    Now it’s up to the Wildcats to pick themselves off the mat with the second half of the Pac-10 season approaching.

    “”We can’t get down on ourselves,”” Mc-Clellan said. “”This is the Pac-10. We’ve got three tough games coming up. We’ll get to see them again. We’ll be amped up because this will be Senior Day.

    “”We have to put this behind. They came out, and we have to give them credit, and we’ll have our day.””

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