UCLA Defeats No.11 Arizona for the Second Time, Continues to Improve Tourney Resume

By Amo Weld
Richard Mackson-USA Today Sports

Whatever you do, don’t call it an upset.

For the second time this season, the UCLA Bruins went up against a ranked Arizona team and came away with a victory. The Bruins completely dominated the first 35 minutes, but had to withstand a late rally by the Wildcats, holding on to win by the score of 74-69.

After being up ten points with five minutes left, the Bruins committed five turnovers in a four minute span, allowing Arizona to pull within three points. With ten seconds left, UCLA freshman Shabazz Muhammad was intentionally fouled after coming down with a defensive rebound. Muhammad stepped to the free-throw line and knocked down both shots to ice the game.

In the rematch with its bitter rival, UCLA was led by its newcomers. Freshmen Muhammad and Kyle Anderson led the Bruins in scoring with 18 points and 17 points, respectively. Starting point guard Larry Drew II (the nation’s leader in assist-to-turnover ratio) posted 14 points and 9 dimes. While the team’s second-leading scorer Jordan Adams managed only six points on 1 of 5 shooting from the field, he tied a career-high with 5 steals.

The Bruins got a major win tonight and after struggling earlier in the season, UCLA has now won six of its last seven games. With three weeks until March Madness, the Bruins’ third win against a Top 25 team will have major tourney implications.

According to Joe Lunardi of ESPN, the Bruins’ recent run of success has significantly improved their resume, and Lunardi currently has UCLA projected as a 7-seed in the NCAA Tournament. With tonight’s win, Ben Howland‘s squad has continued to improve its standing in the eyes of the NCAA Selection Committee and has a chance to become a Top-5 seed in the Big Dance.

On the other side, the Wildcats are reeling and will plummet in the AP Top 25 after tonight’s loss. Arizona started of the season by going 19-2 over the first 22 games, but has dropped four of its last seven games. Against UCLA, the Wildcats really struggled with their ball security. Arizona’s leading scorers, Mark Lyons and Solomon Hill, had five turnovers apiece, and the team committed 16 turnovers combined.

Up next, the Wildcats will host Arizona State, which has lost three consecutive games. In Arizona’s prior matchup with its in-state rival on Jan. 19, the Wildcats took down the Sun Devils by the score of 71-54 and will look to right the ship by sweeping the season series.

With the win, the Bruins have won six of their last seven games and have moved into a first-place tie with Oregon in the PAC-12 standings. Next week, UCLA will go on the road to take on Washington State and Washington in an attempt to claim the PAC-12 regular season title.

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