Thursday, March 14, 2013
First look: UCLA vs. Arizona
By Peter Yoon
What: No. 21 UCLA Bruins (24-8) vs No. 18 Arizona Wildcats (25-6), Pac-12 Tournament semifinal
When: Friday, 6 p.m. PT
Where: MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas
TV: Pac-12 Networks
Radio: AM 570
Scouting the Bruins: Top-seeded UCLA has won six of its past seven games and is looking to get to the Pac-12 tournament final for the first time since winning it in 2008. The Bruins are coming off a hard-fought, 80-75 quarterfinal victory over Arizona State, in which they erased a 15-point, second-half deficit. In that game, the Bruins ended an 11-game streak of getting outrebounded and will need to keep that up to continue their success in the postseason. Shabazz Muhammad took his game to another level in the second half of that matchup when he scored 12 of his 16 points. Travis Wear also showed signs of emerging from his injury-related funk by making six of his last nine shots after starting the game zero for five. Larry Drew II continues to make teams pay for sagging off him. In the past 10 games, which includes when Arizona State and USC had success against UCLA by sagging off Drew, the senior point guard has shot 54.1 percent overall and 65.4 percent (17 of 26) on 3-pointers. He scored a season-high 20 points on 8-of-10 shooting -- including four for four on 3-pointers -- on Thursday and provided exactly the type of senior leadership this young team needs in the heat of the postseason. The Bruins lead all Pac-12 teams in scoring at 75.2 points per game, but Thursday represented the first time in nearly a month they had reached 80 points. They also lead the conference in shooting at 45.7 percent, but opponents are shooting 41.9 percent against UCLA, and the Bruins have allowed five consecutive opponents to shoot 40 percent or better.
Scouting the Wildcats: No. 4-seeded Arizona stumbled a bit down the stretch with losses in two of its final three regular-season games that knocked the Wildcats out of the conference title race and into the No. 4 seed for the tournament, but they are looking to reach the conference tournament final for the third consecutive year. After defeating Colorado 79-69 Thursday in the quarterfinals, the Wildcats have won consecutive games in fairly convincing fashion. The key number for them is 70 points on the defensive end, as they are 23-0 when holding teams under that threshold. They are very balanced on offense and are second to UCLA among conference teams in scoring at 73.6 points per game. Mark Lyons is the leader with 14.8 points per game, but Solomon Hill (13.5) and Nick Johnson (11.8) are not far behind, and all are very capable of scoring 20-plus points. The Wildcats like to score from all over the floor and lead the conference in 3-pointers made with 238. Lyons has 56 while Hill, Johnson and Kevin Parrom each have at least 35. Kaleb Tarczewski, a 7-foot freshman center, presents a matchup issue for the size-challenged Bruins and leads the team with 5.9 rebounds per game. Hill, Parrom and Brandon Ashley also average more than five rebounds for the Wildcats, who are among the conference leaders with a plus-6.1 rebounding margin.
The series: UCLA leads the series 51-37. The Bruins swept the regular season with an 84-73 victory in Tucson and a 74-69 victory at Pauley Pavilion and will be trying to go 3-0 against the Wildcats for only the second time in school history. The only other time the Bruins did so was in 2006. UCLA is 3-2 against Arizona in Pac-12 tournament history, including a 66-58 Arizona victory in the quarterfinals last season. UCLA and Arizona met in a conference tournament semifinal only once: UCLA's 71-59 victory in 2006.