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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


No answers

Mike Christy
Mike Christy / Arizona Daily Wildcat The UCLA Bruins hosted the No. 10 Arizona Wildcats in a battle for a share of the Pacific 10 Conference lead Saturday, Feb. 26, 2011, in Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles, Calif. The Bruins dominated the visiting Wildcats 71-59.

LOS ANGELES — Twice in three days, they heard it.

The No. 10 ranking now a thing of the past, chants of “”overrated”” sent the Arizona men’s basketball team away with a second straight loss during a 71-49 throttling at the hands of UCLA Saturday.

Head coach Sean Miller and his team, usually not ones to have long locker room talks after games, spent 30 minutes in the depths of Pauley Pavilion, the historic venue’s last game before a year-long renovation. After his no-longer top 10 team fell, Miller said that time was spent on refocusing for the future and not looking at the past.

“”What happened this weekend is we played against two teams that are excellent on defense, took our scoring away and really exposed our defense,”” he said, hinting that Arizona’s strong offense had veiled its lackluster defense, even during the end of an eight-game winning streak.

“”Moving forward,”” he added, “”we have to see, as we approach this homestand, if we can regain that defensive toughness and team-centered attitude.””

He said he didn’t want his team to stew on the past, and as a result, Arizona officials didn’t allow anyone other than the Wildcats (23-6, 12-4 Pacific 10 Conference) lone bright spot, center Kyryl Natyazhko, to speak to the media in postgame interviews.

Natyazhko didn’t have many answers for the Wildcat’s past two games.

“”Nobody is happy about the loss, but we lost to a really good team,”” Natyazhko said. “”We didn’t play hard enough to stop them.””

Bruin forwards Reeves Nelson and Tyler Honeycutt, along with 305-pound center Joshua Smith, chopped up Arizona’s interior defense, helping UCLA (21-8, 12-4) score 50 points in the paint to the Wildcat’s 22. The trio accounted for 32 of the first 36 Bruin points.

While UCLA took advantage of easy inside baskets en route to a 53 percent field goal accuracy, Arizona’s poor outside shooting led to a 32 percent clip for the Wildcats.

Miller said Arizona’s poor interior defense wasn’t a new development.

“”We have tried to address it,”” he said. “”The other thing to keep in mind is the same team, the same frontline, went 23-4. Still a week from today, we can win the Pac-10 Championship.

“”It’s not a strength of ours, but did we get handled inside this weekend? Yes.””

Lacking size against Nelson and Smith, his players’ post traps either weren’t executed well or, when they were, the passing of UCLA’s big men easily maneuvered around them.

“”(Reeves Nelson) really plays off Josh Smith well,”” Miller said. “”A lot of his baskets tonight happened because we trapped the post. They had a really good plan against our post trap, and they exposed us.””

Meanwhile, Honeycutt scored 15 and Smith added 17 points. Combined with Nelson, the three Bruins shot an efficient 23-for-36 and they also helped UCLA outrebound Arizona 40-26.

That came as UA forward Derrick Williams struggled for the second contest in a row, scoring 15 points and grabbing eight rebounds while getting beat up by the UCLA interior players. He scored 13 of those points in the first half, and his only bucket in the second, a lefty hook, gave Arizona its only single-digit deficit of the second period.

“”This wasn’t his night,”” Miller said of Williams. “”They’re (UCLA) very difficult, very physical on the other end. Defensively right now, not just Derrick, everybody on our team, we have to answer the bell.””

Just as Arizona shot themselves in the foot two days prior by allowing USC to finish the game on a 15-3 run, UCLA went on a 14-1 run over the final 4:36 minutes of the game to put Arizona away.

“”We knew before we came this would be a hard weekend,”” Miller said. “”We have to make sure that we recognize who we are as a team and what we have at stake.””

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