UCLA let a lead slip away late in the game yet again, losing to Arizona, 65-63, Saturday in a Pac-12 game at McKale Center in Tucson. It was UCLA's fourth conference loss by three points or fewer--all of those coming on the road--and the fourth time in conference play the Bruins have lost a game in which they held a second-half lead.
A quick look at the game:
OVERVIEW: It was a back-and-forth battle throughout with 14 lead changes and seven ties, but things seemed to be going UCLA's way when Tyler Lamb hit a desperation 3-pointer at the shot clock buzzer to give the Bruins a 50-46 lead with 6:28 to play.
At that point, Arizona had made only five field goals in the second half and looked clueless against UCLA;s defense, but the Wildcats scored on eight consecutive possessions to take a 60-55 lead. The Bruins forced 15 turnovers and limited Arizona to 37.5% shooting for the game, but got only two turnovers in the final 10:53 and Arizona was six-of-six from the field over the final 7:10.
Arizona let UCLA stay in the game by making only two of six free throws in the final 30 seconds while Joshua Smith and Jerime Anderson combined to make four of four from the line in the final 12 seconds. Arizona's Kyle Fogg gave the Wildcats a 65-63 lead by making one of two free throws with 7.8 seconds to play, but UCLA, without a timeout, couldn't get off a clean shot and Anderson missed a potential game-tying jump shot at the buzzer.
Anderson matched his career high with 20 points, but didn't get much offensive help from his backcourt mates as Lazeric Jones and Tyler Lamb combined to make only five of 23 shots (21.7 percent). Travis Wear added 13 points and seven rebounds for the Bruins (16-13, 9-7 Pac-12).
Kyle Fogg had 20 points, 16 in the second half, to lead Arizona (21-9, 12-5).
TURNING POINT: Lamb picked up his fourth personal foul with 6:28 to play and UCLA coach Ben Howland switched his best defender off of Fogg, who proceeded to score eight consecutive points over the next two minutes and had 13 of his 20 points in the final 6:28.
Fogg, Arizona's leading scorer, had only seven points on two of nine shooting while Lamb was guarding him, but was able to find open shots and drive the lane without Lamb's hounding defense. Even when Lamb went back on Fogg, Lamb was unable to play as aggressively because of the fear of picking up his fourth foul. Fogg made eight of 11 free throws and was two-of-two from the field in the final 6:28, including a back-breaking three-pointer that gave Arizona a 63-57 lead with 53 seconds to play.
UCLA STAR OF THE GAME: Anderson was the clear star on offense with 20 points on nine-of-15 shooting. He played consistently throughout with 10 points in each half and also added four rebounds and three assists in 37 minutes.
He also made a pair of free throws with nine seconds remaining to keep UCLA within a point at 64-63. He scored eight of UCLA's final 20 points.
STAT OF THE GAME: Jones, UCLA's leading scorer, was 1-12 from the field and scored only two points. It was the second time in two tries that Jones has played a forgettable game at McKale Center. Last year, he was 0-7 and had no points in Tucson.
A couple of other key stats: UCLA shot 61.1 percent (11-18) from the free throw line and was seven of 14 before Smith and Anderson made four of four in the waning seconds. Those misses loom large in a two-point loss. Also, Smith played only 14 minutes, including only four in the first half, because of foul trouble. He was nearly unstoppable in the post when he played, scoring nine points, but couldn't stay on the floor long enough to make a major difference.
WHAT IT MEANS: UCLA's odds of making the NCAA tournament got a lot longer.
If the Bruins are going to make the NCAA tournament, they are going to probably going to have to do it the hard way: win four games in four days during the Pac-12 tournament. The best UCLA can finish in Pac-12 play now is 11-7, which means the Bruins will need help in the form of three losses by Oregon (10-5) and two by Colorado (10-5) if the Bruins are going to get a first-round bye in the Pac-12 tournament.
Unless that unlikely scenario happens, the Bruins are headed for a six- or seventh-place finish in the conference and will have to play in the opening round. No team has won the Pac-10 tournament by winning four games in four days.