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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona defeats UCLA 57-47 in game of runs

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Kyle Hansen

Arizona guard TJ McConnell drives to the basket during the first half of Arizona’s 32-18 lead against UCLA in McKale Center on Saturday.

It sure looked like things were getting dicey at the beginning of the first and second halves, but No. 7 Arizona took down UCLA 57-47 behind several runs throughout Saturday’s action. The Wildcats improved to 24-3 overall and 12-2 in Pac-12 play.

In a game of back and forth play, Arizona had runs of 6-0, 7-0 and 8-0 in the first half to hold a 14-point lead at the halftime break. The second half saw the Wildcats put up a run of 12-4 and the game-clinching 6-0 run, all of which came from T.J. McConnell.

Arizona’s senior point guard McConnell finished with 11 points, six of which came in that last run alone. For an Arizona team struggled to see the ball go through the net, it was exactly what Sean Miller’s squad needed to secure their fourth-straight victory.

“T.J. is our best player,” Miller said. “He’s been our best player every day, and he was our best player on November 12 or 11; and he’s still our best player … the reason is, he does it on defense, he does it on offense, he does it consistently and he always makes big plays.”

UCLA (16-12, 8-7) implemented a couple different zone defenses with the hope of throwing the Wildcats off their game ― and it worked. As a team, Arizona shot just 34 percent on the game and made only seven field goals in the second half.

While zone-buster Gabe York had three 3-pointers, the rest of the Wildcats failed to make a single shot from deep. That lack of 3-point shooting led to wings like Stanley Johnson and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson forcing the issue through the middle of UCLA’s zone, a tactic that did not suit Arizona well.

“We were stagnant on offense, and we really didn’t run very good zone offense,” McConnell said. “But, [York] made some big shots and he’s the key reason we won.”

Johnson and Hollis-Jefferson combined to go 2-15 from the floor, but they did put up 15 total rebounds. Johnson in particular put in extra work on the boards, en route to 10 total rebounds.

By comparison, the Bruins had 23 rebounds as a team and were out-rebounded 40-23.

“They’re a formidable offensive rebounding team. They’ve done it all year; they’ve done it against some great teams, and tonight we took that from them,” Miller said. “The difference of 40 to 23 on the glass ― that is the one thing we did do tonight.”

On a night where the starters struggled for long stretches of time, Arizona backup center Dusan Ristic had all 12 of his points in the first half, and York put up 13 points. Their performances led to Arizona outscoring UCLA 27-0 in bench points.

UCLA’s Bryce Alford — son of head coach Steve Alford — paced the Bruins with 22 points on 7-13 shooting, including several tough shots over the extending arms of the Arizona defense.

If not for Alford’s solid shooting, UCLA’s 47 points could have easily been cut in half.

“He has the ultimate green light and if you give him any space, he’s shooting it,” McConnell said. “He did a good job of shooting it tonight … credit to him for his game.”

Looking forward, Arizona has a few days of practice before hitting the road for the Rocky Mountain series. The matchups with Colorado and Utah are the final two regular season road games of the season for the Wildcats.

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