The mathematics are simple. When two teams that are close in talent play, it’s the little things that matter and usually the difference between winning and losing. Arizona (18-2, 7-0 Pac 12) played better all-round defense and shot better than UCLA (19-2, 6-2 Pac 12). Therefore the Cats ended the Bruins six game winning streak in decisive fashion 96-85.
“Have to give Arizona a lot of credit, as I think they played really well both halves,” UCLA coach Steve Alford said. “This was similar to Oregon in the fact that we scored in the 80’s, but we just couldn’t get stops in either half. We couldn’t get into a flow to get into a rhythm defensively. Our defensive efficiency tonight was awful. We gave up 48 points in both halves so they were very efficient and hard to guard today.”
“This is a valuable lesson. I thought we were making strides and putting some things together defensively over the last couple of weeks since Oregon, but we regressed tonight against a really good basketball team. Arizona played very well tonight. We will watch the tape and learn from it.”
The Bruins allowed way to many open looks and the Cats made them pay by hitting 50 percent of their shots and were an outstanding 19-21 from the foul line.
Arizona had six players score in double figures led by Kobi Simmons’ team high 20 points. Simmons also had five assists and two steals to pace the Wildcats.
UCLA was outscored by Arizona’s bench by 14 points. Much of those points were supplied by sophomore guard Allonzo Trier (6-5, 205) who made his first appearance of the season. He led the Cats in scoring for 2015-16 as a true freshman. Trier played a well-rounded game, playing 27 minutes, scoring 12 points, landing seven rebounds and dishing out seven assists.
“Trier was obviously a big boost for them as he’s a very good player,” Alford said. “That impacted their team in a positive way. They are a very good basketball team and they’ve yet to lose on the road. So that speaks highly of who they are as a team. This is our first look at them. On film they looked good and in person they looked even better. They have a lot of good working pieces to what they do. They shot the ball well today and did some good things. We will try and watch some tape and grow from it.”
One player didn’t make the difference in winning and losing, UCLA’s defense wasn’t up to par. The Bruins had five players who scored in double figures, led by Lonzo Ball’s career and game high 24 points.
“We just have to keep drilling these guys in practice,” Alford said. “Points have come so easy and the flow of the offense has come so easy. We played Thursday night and we scored 21 points in the first three minutes into the game. It has become a little too easy at that end. They need this.”
“I mean you can be special, and come March you can be awfully special but your defense has got to grow. It’s not one, two, three guys. It’s playing defense with the same intensity and unselfishness that you play with offensively. It’s where this team has to grow the most.”
“There’s not as much trust or unselfishness to help at the defensive end to help one another than what happens at the offensive end. Offensively you see assists. Defensively they don’t calculate assists but there is assisting to defense. And we don’t do that nearly as well.”
UCLA has until Wednesday to right the ship as they will travel across town to play arch rival USC at the Galen Center. Tipoff is scheduled for 8:00PM PST and will be televised nationally on Fox Sports 1.