Both No. 5 UCLA (25-3, 12-3 Pac 12) and No 4 Arizona (26-3, 15-1 Pac 12) resisted the temptation of looking ahead by taking care of the business at hand. The Bruins beat ASU 87-75 and the Wildcats took care of USC 90-77 in games leading up to the showdown in Tucson.
The Wildcats used an explosive offense and a defense that caused turnovers to beat USC. Though the Trojans shot 51 percent from the field, Arizona put the clamps on USC from beyond the arc, shooting only 5-15 on threes.
Arizona forced USC into 14 turnovers that turned into 23 Wildcat points, plus Arizona was helped by getting 30 points from their bench.
Arizona’s victory over USC was a lot like their win over the Bruins last month. Strong play from the Wildcats on both ends of the floor and a lot of help from the bench.
When the Wildcats beat the Bruins 96-85, last month, UCLA’s defense was given a wake up call. Bruin head coach Steve Alford wasn’t happy with his team’s defensive play.
“We couldn’t get into a flow and get into a rhythm defensively,” Alford said after the first game with Arizona. “Our defensive efficiency tonight was awful.”
In the first game, UCLA allowed way to many open looks and the Cats made them pay by hitting 50 percent of their shots. Arizona was also were an outstanding 19-21 from the foul line and in total, the Wildcats had six players score in double figures.
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.
The first time the Bruins played the Wildcats, sophomore guard Allonzo Trier (6-5, 205) made his first appearance of the season. It was a huge lift for the Cats getting back a player in Trier who led Arizona in scoring for as a true freshman in 2015-16.
Against UCLA last month, Trier played a well-rounded game, playing 27 minutes, scoring 12 points, seven rebounds and dishing out seven assists. Trier is coming of a season high 25 points against USC, including four three-pointers against the Trojans.
Including Trier, the Cats had five players scoring in double figures against USC. Freshman guard, Rawle Alkins (6-5, 220) came off the bench to score 12 points. Freshman forward, Lauri Markkanen (7-0, 230) chipped in 11 points, junior center Susan Ristic (7-0 245) scored 10 points off the bench and junior guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright (5-11, 170) added 10 points to the cause.
For the Bruins to have a chance beating Arizona in the desert they will have to continue their improved play on defense and shoot the ball better than they did the last time they played the Wildcats.
The Wildcats are on a 25 game winning streak on their home floor, McKale Arena (14,644) and are 14-0 this season. Tipoff is scheduled for 5:15PM PST and will be televised nationally on ESPN. Dan Shulman will be doing play-by-play, Jay Bilas is analyzing the action, and Maria Taylor will be court side.
If you happen to be out and about UCLA’s flagship station AM 570 will broadcast the game with Josh Lewin (play-by-play), and UCLA great Tracy Murray (analyst) in their usual chairs.