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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Column: Arizona gives UCLA a taste of its own medicine, moves to Oregon for Pac-12 Championship

Simon Asher

Arizona’s Lauri Markkanen (10) slam dunks during the pac-12 Semi-finals on Friday, March 10. Arizona beat UCLA 86-75. 

LAS VEGAS — When No. 7 Arizona beat No. 3 UCLA 86-75 in the semifinals of the Pac-12 Tournament, it was a sight straight out of a movie. Payback.

Head coach Sean Miller called a timeout with 0.9 seconds left in the game so the Wildcats could relish in the glory that they beat a team that split them in the regular season.

“When UCLA played us in McKale, I thought they did a great job—they called a timeout with one second left just to make sure they had poise,” Miller said on Pac-12 Networks. ”I wanted to make sure our guys had poise with one second left.”

The memory of Kadeem Allen shooting the air ball a few weeks ago stewed in Miller’s mind, because the Wildcats have only lost two games at home in four seasons and that second loss was against UCLA on senior night. The mindset for Arizona was to play for Allen.

“It was personal for us,” Allen said. “My team dedicated this game to me before it even started. They told me they were going to give it their all and they followed up what they said and got the job done.”

Miller copied UCLA head coach Steve Alford’s method of calling a timeout in order to secure the win and essentially rub it in the other team’s face, but the Wildcats also replicated the high-pace offense the Bruins have been known for all season long. Remember the time Miller said UCLA was the “Golden State Warriors of college basketball”?

Miller had every right to say that, because the Bruins are actually the No. 1 offensive team in the country averaging 90 points per game and are fourth in three-point field goal percentage (41.3 percent).

Arizona shot 10-for-20 (50 percent) from beyond the arc Friday while UCLA only went 4-for-25 (16 percent). The two primary threats from deep, guards Bryce Alford and Lonzo Ball went a combined 2-for-16. At one point, an Arizona fan sitting behind me said, “keep shooting Steph!” in regards to his father’s comments claiming Ball is better than Stephen Curry.

The usual suspects Lauri Markkanen and Allonzo Trier shot 7-for-14 from three-point range so the script was flipped and the holy UCLA offense was left running around trying to make defensive plays, but Arizona didn’t let up—not even a little bit.

“We’re a hard team to beat when we’re in transition,” Allen said. “Coach gets on us some games when we slow the ball down—walk the ball up. We don’t play that style. We play fast, we play aggressive, we play physical and that’s Arizona basketball.”

Another page Arizona ripped out of UCLA’s playbook was being active on the glass, because a few weeks ago, the Bruins outscored the Wildcats 20-4 in second chance points. The ‘Cats denied any chance of that repeating, because they scored eight more second chance points and collected five more offensive rebounds than UCLA.

It’s not a lie UCLA played an uncharacteristic game against Arizona and the Bruins still remain a potential Final Four team if the offensive production returns to full force, but the Wildcats gave them a taste of their own medicine.

Next up, Arizona will play the other Pac-12 regular season co-champion, the No. 5 Oregon Ducks. We all remember the last time the Ducks and the Wildcats played each other when Oregon thumped UA by 27 points and shot 64 percent from three-point range.

“I don’t know if we really had a chance that game, because they made so many shots,” Trier said. ”It doesn’t matter if we play a [Division II] team, if they make that many threes, it’s going to be tough to beat them.” 

Saturday’s Pac-12 Championship is not only for bragging rights of the conference, but also for seeding in the NCAA Tournament. If the ‘Cats want to beat an arguably more athletic team than UCLA, bringing the A-game is a must.

Let the games begin.

Follow Justin Spears on Twitter. 

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