UCLA: Travis Wear
The Bruins have been in scramble mode almost since the day athletic director Dan Guerrero announced Steve Alford as the coach to replace Ben Howland, and the latest incident came over the weekend, when Guerrero issued a puzzling statementin response to an L.A. Times article about Alford.
That statement is just the latest incident during hectic two-month stretch in which question after question about Alford, his past and how and why he was hired have dominated discussions about UCLA basketball. About the only way to silence all of this, of course, would be to redirect attention to the team and its potential.
Unfortunately for Alford and UCLA, there are plenty of questions and issues surrounding those aspects of the program, too. Here, we look at five of the biggest questions surrounding the UCLA program as it transitions into the Steve Alford era:
1. Can Alford win over the UCLA fan base?
While this certainly is the biggest issue du jour, it’s also the most easily addressed. All Alford needs to do is land a couple of top-notch recruits and then get the team winning.
Sounds simple enough, but Alford started out behind in the recruiting race and would now need to pull off some magic in order to land a player who can impact next season’s team.
Let’s face it: Alford was not the top choice for UCLA fans. UCLA showed interest in Shaka Smart of Virginia Commonwealth and Brad Stevens of Butler before turning to Alford and his hire came as a surprise to the Bruins faithful.
His name had not previously come up in lists of potential candidates for the job, and some have been slow to fully accept him as a worthy leader for this proud program.
Alford still has a shot, but the real answer to this question won’t come until next March. The only way to truly impress UCLA fans is to win in the NCAA Tournament. Conference titles and tournaments mean little. Sweet 16s, Elite Eights and Final Fours speak volumes.
2. Does UCLA have enough depth?
Alford inherits a team with only six scholarship players returning and only one of them -- Jordan Adams -- averaged more than 11 points per game last season.
Three freshmen are slated to arrive in late June, so the Bruins will have nine scholarship players to start next season and the good news is that is one more than they played with for much of last season.
The Oregon Ducks won their first Pac-12 tournament championship since 2007 with a 78-69 victory over the UCLA Bruins on Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. A quick breakdown:
How it happened: UCLA (25-9) was within two points at 54-52 with 12:07 to play, but following a UCLA timeout the Ducks (25-8) went on an 8-1 run for a 62-53 lead with 10:01 to play. UCLA did not get any closer than four points after that.
Arsalan Kazemi scored 10 of his 12 points in the second half, including seven in the final 12:42 as Oregon held off any run UCLA made. The Bruins, who came back from double-digit deficits in each of their previous two games of the tournament, appeared to have one last run when Shabazz Muhammad scored to cut the Oregon lead to 68-62 with 5:08 to play. But Larry Drew missed a shot, Travis Wear failed on a dunk attempt and the Ducks held on.
Oregon had 10 first-half turnovers, but the Bruins could not take advantage, scoring only five points off those turnovers. The Bruins forged an early 14-6 lead, but the Ducks caught fire from behind the arc, as Damyean Dotson, Johnathan Loyd and Carlos Emory combined to make 3-pointers on four consecutive Oregon possessions. That trio of Ducks combined to go 7-of-9 on 3-point attempts over the final 12:25 of the first half as Oregon took a 41-30 halftime lead.
Players of the game: Loyd and Emory combined for 39 points off the bench for Oregon. Emory, who averages 11.2 points, had 20 points and Loyd, who averages 4.1 points, had 19. Loyd made 8 of 14 shots and Emory made 6 of 14.
Stat of the game: The Bruins, who have shot 72.7 percent from the free throw line for the season, made only 13 of 22 (59 percent) in the nine-point loss to Oregon.
What it means: The defeat, coupled with the loss of Jordan Adams to a broken foot, means UCLA will probably not get to play as close to home in the NCAA tournament as the Bruins had hoped. They will likely be seeded No. 5 or No. 6. Oregon got a nice résumé-boosting win, but probably can’t hope for much more than a No. 7 or No. 8 seeding.
What’s next: The teams will return home to await their NCAA tournament fate. The selections will be revealed Sunday at 3 p.m. PT.
LAS VEGAS -- Tears trickled down Larry Drew II's cheeks as he walked through the long corridor leading to UCLA’s locker room Friday. Eventually the Bruins point guard pulled his jersey over his face, shouted a profanity and began to sob.
Trailing a few steps behind, guard Kyle Anderson clasped his hands on top of his head and dropped his jaw. “Oh my god!” he said. “Oh my god!”
Less than a half hour earlier, UCLA had advanced to the title game of the Pac-12 tournament with a 66-64 semifinal victory over rival Arizona. But shortly after leaving MGM Grand Garden Arena court pumping their fists in celebration and waving to the crowd, the Bruins were hit with some sobering news.
UCLA coach Ben Howland received the news from Bruins trainer Laef Morris as he exited a postgame news conference that was also attended by Drew II and Anderson. The players overheard the conversation and immediately became emotional.
Drew swore loudly before reaching the locker room, where Howland informed the rest of the team about Adams’ injury.
Adams, who scored a game-high 24 points, was among the players trying to defend a potential game-tying shot by Wildcats forward Solomon Hill as time expired.
A 6-foot-5 freshman guard, Adams didn’t seem seriously injured as the final buzzer sounded. He hobbled through the handshake line and then retreated to the locker room for X-rays. Soon after, it was revealed that Adams had broken the fifth metatarsal in his right foot. Adams, who left the arena on crutches, suffered a similar injury in high school.
“It doesn’t get worse than this,” forward Travis Wear said.
Adams, who averages 15.3 points, proved how much he means to the Bruins on Friday. In what was arguably his finest performance as a collegian, Adams helped his team rally from an 11-point second-half deficit. The victory marked UCLA’s third triumph this season over the Wildcats.
“We didn’t even celebrate the win,” freshman Shabazz Muhammad said. “It’s just doesn’t seem right for someone to get hurt like that this late in the year.”
The main storyline surrounding UCLA this season has been its resiliency. Bruins fans were calling for Howland’s firing after an early loss to Cal Poly and narrow victories over Cal-Irvine and struggling Texas. Josh Smith and Tyler Lamb transferred from the program before the end of the first semester.
But the Bruins just got tougher.
Despite counting three freshmen (Adams, Anderson and Muhammad) among its top players, UCLA improved at a rapid pace and won the Pac-12 regular-season title.
“It’s been hard for us all year, with the transfers and the little nagging injuries and now this,” Drew II said. “It’s tough. But there’s something about this team. We find ways to make things happen when it seems like all is lost.”
UCLA, however, has not suffered a setback as significant as the loss of Adams this season. The freshman has at times this season played better than Anderson and Muhammad, his more highly touted classmates.
Adams scored 13 straight points during UCLA’s second-half rally Friday. The Bruins trailed 49-38 before staging their comeback. Adams was 6-of-13 from the field and 11-of-13 from the foul stripe.
This injury likely means that backup Norman Powell will slide into a starting role. Powell is already a significant part of the rotation, contributing 21.2 minutes and 5.9 points off the bench.
UCLA’s players said they’re confident Powell will step up to the challenge in Saturday’s Pac-12 tournament title game against Oregon -- and again during the NCAA tournament, which begins next week. The Bruins, 25-8, have won eight of their past 10 games.
“I just know we’ve got tough guys out there -- physically and mentally and psychologically,” Anderson said. “Norman Powell is a really tough player. It’s a terrible loss, but it’s not as bad knowing that we’ve got him coming in to fill that spot.
“It’s going to be tough to go without him, but it’s all part of handling adversity, and that’s something we’ve shown we’re pretty good at.”
The UCLA Bruins advanced to the Pac-12 Tournament final with a thrilling 66-64 semifinal victory over the Arizona Wildcats on Friday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. A quick breakdown:
How it happened: Jordan Adams scored 15 of UCLA’s final 21 points, including 13 in a row at one point, as the Bruins (25-8) erased an 11-point deficit in the final 10:24. With the Bruins clinging to a 62-61 lead, Adams stripped the ball from Arizona’s Mark Lyons, then was fouled and made a pair of free throws to give the Bruins a 64-61 lead with 1:13 to play.
Grant Jerrett drilled a 3-point basket to tie the game at 64 with 55 seconds to play. Adams tried to answer, but his 3-pointer missed. Kyle Anderson came up with a huge offensive rebound and putback for a two-point lead with 22 seconds to play. Solomon Hill missed a shot as time wound down, and UCLA hung on for its third victory in three tries over the Wildcats (25-7) this season.
The Wildcats, who threatened to run away from the Bruins several times, opened a 49-38 lead with 10:24 to play, thanks in large part to cold shooting by the Bruins. UCLA missed their first six shots of the second half and could not prevent Lyons from penetrating for layups or passes to set up easy shots. Adams caught fire from there, however, making five of his last seven shots and going 6-of-6 from the free throw line in the last 9:56.
During the first half, Arizona went on a tear from long range, making 3-point baskets on three consecutive possessions to open a 26-18 lead with 5:18 before intermission. But UCLA stayed close as Adams made four free throws and Travis Wear scored on an alley-oop from Kyle Anderson. The Bruins cut Arizona’s lead to 30-26 by halftime.
Player of the game: Adams had a game-high 24 points, including 16 in the second half, providing most of the offense for a team that was struggling to score for most of the game.
Stat of the game: The Bruins became the first team this season to win a game against Arizona when scoring fewer than 70 points. The Wildcats had been 23-0 when holding opponents under 70.
What it means: UCLA has a chance to win its first conference tournament title since 2008 and got a nice addition to its NCAA Tournament résumé by thrice defeating Arizona, which has the highest RPI of any team in the conference. The Bruins are hoping for a seeding that puts them in a pod out West for the national tourney; this victory should help those chances.
What’s next: The Bruins advance to the conference tournament final for the first time since winning it all in 2008. The Wildcats will have Saturday off and await their NCAA tournament fate to be handed out on Selection Sunday.
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.
Wear, a 6-foot-10 junior, aggravated a foot injury early in the second half Wednesday against Washington State and sat out the last 15 minutes of the game with an ice pack on his foot. He had missed UCLA's games against USC and Arizona State because of a sprained foot, but returned March 2 against Arizona and played 17 minutes.
"Assuming there is no pushback from anything that we did today, I'm expecting him to play and start," Howland said.
Wear is third on the team in scoring with 11 points a game and is the team's second-leading rebounder at 5.2 per game. He had two points and two rebounds in 15 minutes before heading to the bench Wednesday during UCLA's loss to Washington State. Last Saturday against Arizona, he had six points and two rebounds.
Several UCLA Bruins will be in contention for all-conference honors and other awards. Here's one take on what will happen after the conference coaches submit their ballots:
UCLA contenders: Jordan Adams, Shabazz Muhammad, Larry Drew II , Kyle Anderson, Travis Wear
(note: the Pac-12 chooses a 10-player first team and a five-player second team)
Allen Crabbe (California)
Jahii Carson, (Arizona State)
Spencer Dinwiddie (Colorado)
Larry Drew II (UCLA)
Solomon Hill (Arizona)
Arslan Kazemi (Oregon)
Brock Motum (Washington State)
Shabazz Muhammad (UCLA)
Dwight Powell (Stanford)
Andre Roberson (Colorado)
Kyle Anderson (UCLA)
Justin Cobbs (California)
Carrick Felix (Arizona State)
Mark Lyons (Arizona)
E.J. Singler (Oregon)
Honorable Mention: Jordan Adams (UCLA), Carlos Emory (Oregon), Josh Huestis (Stanford) Roberto Nelson (Oregon State), Chasson Randle (Stanford), J.T. Terrell (USC), Jason Washburn (Utah), Travis Wear (UCLA), C.J. Wilcox (Washington), Royce Woolridge (Washington State).
The skinny: Conference coaches tend to reward the teams that finish high, so expect UCLA and Oregon to get their fair share of selections even if others may be more deserving.
When: Saturday, 11 a.m. PT
Where: Alaska Airlines Arena, Seattle
Radio: AM 570
Scouting the Bruins: UCLA is coming off an embarrassing, yet predictable, loss to last-place Washington State, but can still clinch at least a share of the Pac-12 title with a win at Washington. The Bruins will have to play better on both sides of the ball than they did Wednesday, when they shot only 38.6 percent and allowed Washington State to shoot 49.1. UCLA had shot 47.5 percent and held its opponents to 39.3 percent over the previous four games, so they’ll be looking to get back on track. Forward Travis Wear aggravated a right foot injury Wednesday and his status is still up in the air. Jordan Adams is averaging 17.2 points on 54.9 percent shooting over the last five games. Leading scorer Shabazz Muhammad is averaging 17.8 points the past five games, but was 4-of-19 Wednesday -- his worst shooting performance of the season. UCLA has been outrebounded in 10 consecutive games and 16 of the past 18. Opponents have outrebounded the Bruins by an average of 9.4 per game over the past 10 games.
Scouting the Huskies: Washington has won three consecutive games and four of its past five, continuing an up-and-down conference season for the Huskies. Their recent run has gotten them back on track, and they are fighting to improve their seeding for the Pac-12 tournament. Senior Scott Suggs is averaging 19 points on 63.6 percent shooting over the past three games. He’s made 11-of-21 (52.3 percent) from 3-point territory during that span. C.J. Wilcox leads the team in scoring with 17.1 points per game, but is shooting only 42.5 percent for the season. He is 15-of-50 (30 percent) over the past four games, including 3-of-18 (16.6 percent) on 3-point attempts. Aziz N'Diaye, a 7-foot center who had 18 rebounds against UCLA on Feb. 7, is fourth in the conference with 9.3 rebounds per game. Washington is No. 11 in the conference in field goal percentage defense (43.2 percent), but held UCLA -- the conference leader in shooting percentage -- to 33.3 percent last time they met.
The series: UCLA leads the all-time series, 93-40, including a 59-57 victory at Pauley Pavilion last month won on a basket at the final buzzer by Larry Drew II.
Fast fact: UCLA has lost eight consecutive games against the Huskies in Seattle, including a 71-69 loss last year. That was the closest the Bruins had been to winning at Washington during the streak, as the other seven losses have come by an average margin of 11.1 points. A 70-63 loss at Washington the final week of the 2011 regular season cost the Bruins a share of the Pac-12 title. UCLA's last win in Seattle came in 2004 during coach Ben Howland's first season with the Bruins.
The UCLA Bruins have won four consecutive games, are ranked in the top 25 and sit tied with Oregon atop the Pac-12 standings. UCLA can clinch at least a share of the conference title with a sweep of Washington State and Washington this week and set itself up for a top-five seeding in the NCAA tournament should things go well the next two weeks.
It’s a far cry from where the Bruins were around Thanksgiving, when the team was struggling on the court, players seemed to be packing up and leaving on a daily basis, coach Ben Howland’s job was on thin ice and everybody wrote off the Bruins as an overrated bust.
Now, UCLA has fought its way back to the category of NCAA tournament sleeper. The Bruins have won six of their past seven games as they head into Wednesday’s game at last-place Washington State and appear to be peaking at just the right time. It’s not exactly where anyone would have pegged this team to be after an embarrassing loss to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo on Nov. 25.
“I honestly probably wouldn’t think it because we were struggling early on,” freshman guard Jordan Adams said. “I kept saying we were going to see how the season turns around or how we deal with that loss. I think it helped us. I still, to this day, think that the Cal Poly loss helped us.”
They've put themselves in this position by rededicating themselves to the fundamentals of team-first basketball instead of the selfish, me-first attitude that polluted the team early on. The players have applied themselves to coach Ben Howland’s defensive philosophies and made great strides on that end of the court while maintaining an offensive potency that has become the calling card of this season’s squad.
“It says a lot about us, and it also says it’s not about the way you start, it’s about the way you finish,” senior point guard Larry Drew II said. “I’m proud of my guys, the way that we stuck through it all season up until this point and just kept battling and fighting as hard as we could. We all know it’s about the name on the front of the jerseys and not the back.”
Kyle Anderson is Exhibit A. Anderson has sacrificed his natural role as point guard in order to play more at forward to help the team with rebounding. He leads the team with nine rebounds a game, and now that he’s had a few months to grow accustomed to the role, he’s beginning to flourish in other areas as well. He’s averaging 16.8 points over the past four games -- well above his season average of 10.3.
When: Wednesday, 6:30 p.m. PT
Where: Beasley Coliseum, Pullman, Wash.
TV: Pac-12 Networks
Radio: AM 570
Scouting the Bruins: UCLA has won four consecutive games and six of its past seven and sits in a tie with Oregon for first place in the Pac-12 Conference standings. The Bruins are coming off of a home sweep of Arizona State and Arizona that all but punched their ticket to the NCAA tournament and kept them in contention for their first conference title since the Final Four team of 2008. Kyle Anderson, the Pac-12 Player of the Week last week, is averaging 16.8 points and 11 rebounds during UCLA’s four-game win streak -- far above his season averages of 10.3 points and nine rebounds. Larry Drew II is averaging 11 points and 8.8 assists during the streak while Shabazz Muhammad and Jordan Adams continue to pour in the points with 18.8 and 17 points, respectively, over the past four games. Muhammad, one of the top 3-point shooters in the conference, has made 7 of 12 from long range during UCLA’s streak and Drew has made 7 of 11. The Bruins lead the conference in scoring with 76 points per game and are shooting a conference-best 46.3 percent, but are last in rebounding margin (-1.0) and have been out-rebounded in nine consecutive games. Forward Travis Wear is still battling a sprained foot and missed practice Monday after playing 17 minutes against Arizona on Saturday. He had missed the previous two games and his status for Wednesday is hopeful, coach Ben Howland said. David Wear, averaging 9.9 points and nine rebounds over the past three games, has filled in nicely for his twin brother.
Scouting the Cougars: Washington State occupies the bottom spot in the Pac-12 standings thanks to a current nine-game losing streak. That’s not to say the Cougars are a pushover. Of their 18 losses, 10 have been by seven points or fewer and five have been by two points or fewer. They took Gonzaga, now ranked No. 1 in the nation, down to the wire in a 71-69 loss in December and went to overtime with first-place Oregon before losing 79-77 on Feb. 16. They are 1-6 at home in conference games, but four of the losses have been by five points or fewer, so the Cougars know how to stay in games and it's only a matter of time before they finish one. Senior guard Mike Ladd, the team’s second-leading scorer with 11.4 points per game and third on the team with 5.9 rebounds per game, has missed the past five games with a knee injury and is questionable to play. Leading scorer Brock Motum continues to shine even in a down year and is third in the conference with 17.9 points per game while leading the team with 6.2 rebounds per game. Royce Woolridge had 36 points against Oregon and is averaging 19 over the past four games for the Cougars, who are 11th in the conference in scoring at 63.8 points per game and 11th in field goal percentage at 42.5 percent. The Cougars will slow the game with multiple defensive looks and are giving up only 63.4 points a game to rank No. 4 in the conference in scoring defense.
The series: UCLA leads the all-time series 102-14. The Bruins defeated Washington State 76-62 on Feb. 9 for their eighth consecutive victory over the Cougars. UCLA is 46-11 all-time against the Cougars in Pullman and has a current 19-game win streak at Washington State that began in 1994. Of those 19 UCLA victories, however, 10 have come by five points or fewer.
Quick quote: “Those of us that have been there know how many close calls we’ve had in Pullman here in recent memory,” Howland said of playing at Pullman. “I know and have tried to really impress upon our players that if we don’t show up and play our best, we are definitely putting ourselves in an opportunity to lose on Wednesday.”
Wear, the team's third-leading scorer, played 17 minutes and had six points and two rebounds Saturday in UCLA's 74-69 victory over Arizona but experienced swelling after the game. Howland said he was hopeful Wear would be available Wednesday for UCLA's game at Washington State.
"Hopefully he'll be able to do more," Howland said.
Wear's action on Saturday was his first since spraining the foot a week earlier in practice. He sat out UCLA's victories over USC and Arizona State but was cleared to play 15-20 minutes against the Wildcats. Howland said Wear's twin brother, David, has filled in nicely while Travis has been less than 100 percent.
David Wear is averaging 9.8 points and nine rebounds over the past three games.
"Dave Wear has had a terrific run here," Howland said. "He’s really playing his best basketball of the season, which I’m really excited about."
UCLA's vaunted freshmen will get their first taste of meaningful March basketball when the Bruins (21-7, 11-4 Pac-12) face No. 11 Arizona (23-5, 11-5) on Saturday at 6 p.m. PT at Pauley Pavilion in a game with Pac-12 title and NCAA tournament seeding implications.
UCLA is half a game behind Oregon (23-6, 12-4) for first place in the conference and can claim at least a share of the regular-season title by winning its last three games. Arizona sits a game behind the Ducks, and will need to win out and hope Oregon stumbles during a road trip next week to Colorado and Utah.
UCLA is projected as a No. 7 seed in Joe Lunardi's most recent Bracketology and Arizona is a No. 4 seed, so both teams have room to go up or down. This nationally televised game between traditional powerhouses will go a long way in determining which way they go, so there is no doubt March is coming in like a lion.
"Every game is do or die for us from here on out," UCLA guard Larry Drew II said. "We're approaching every game like it is a must-win, and that starts with this game against Arizona."
Drew is one of the few UCLA players with experience in important games in March. The senior North Carolina transfer was a freshman on the Tar Heels' 2009 national championship team. Travis Wear and David Wear were freshmen at North Carolina when the Tar Heels played in the NIT. Sophomore Norman Powell did not play in the postseason last year, and freshmen Shabazz Muhammad, Kyle Anderson, Jordan Adams and Tony Parker are about to embark on the first March of their college careers.
"It's special, there's no question," UCLA coach Ben Howland said. "This is why kids come to UCLA, to have 'College GameDay' on campus against Arizona. It doesn't get any better than that."
Especially if the Bruins can repeat the performance they put on in an 84-73 victory over the Wildcats on Jan. 24 in Tucson. In that game, Muhammad had 23 points, Adams had 15 points and five rebounds, Anderson had 12 rebounds, and Parker had six points and three rebounds in 10 minutes.
When: Saturday, 6 p.m. PT
Where: Pauley Pavilion
Radio: AM 570
Scouting the Bruins: After a short slump, UCLA is beginning to round back into form with three consecutive victories and five in its past six games. The three-game win streak is the first for the Bruins since their 10-game win streak ended Jan. 19, and the Bruins are averaging 80.7 points during their current three-game run. They dominated USC on Sunday and are coming off a hard-fought overtime victory over Arizona State on Wednesday, when freshmen Jordan Adams, Kyle Anderson and Shabazz Muhammad combined for 64 points and 28 rebounds. Adams has been scorching hot of late, averaging a team-high 19.3 points and shooting 56.3 percent over the past four games. Anderson is averaging 14 points and 11 rebounds over the past four games. Muhammad leads the team with 18.3 points per game for the season, and he's leading the Pac-12 in 3-point shooting percentage (44.9 percent). He made 3-of-4 from beyond the arc Wednesday against Arizona State, but also rolled his ankle during the first half and needed treatment on it after the game. He had 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting in the first half of that game, but only six points on 2-of-5 shooting in the second half and overtime. Still, he said he would be fine for Saturday's game. Forward Travis Wear is still day-to-day because of a sprained foot and will be a game-time decision. Wear is averaging 11.6 points and 5.1 rebounds for the season.
Scouting the Wildcats: Arizona is clinging to its Pac-12 title hopes after losing at USC on Wednesday to fall to 3-3 in its past six games. The Wildcats had won five of six before the current slide and have some of the best nonconference wins of any team in the Pac-12 (Florida, Miami), and have been ranked No. 12 or higher all season. Mark Lyons (15.2 points) Solomon Hill (13.9 points, 5.3 rebounds) and Nick Johnson (11.4 points) are the main threats, but the Wildcats have plenty of weapons and have four players averaging five rebounds or more for the season. Johnson had a season-high 23 points when Arizona and UCLA met last month in Tucson, but has averaged only 8.1 points per game since. Senior Kevin Parrom comes in as the hottest shooter on the team having averaged 17.5 points on 12-of-16 shooting over the past two games, including 8-of-12 from 3-point range. The Wildcats average 73.6 points, second only to UCLA in the Pac-12, and are second in the conference in rebounding margin at +6.1. Arizona also leads the conference in 3-pointers made with 211. Lyons (53) and Hill (47) lead the way from beyond the arc, with the 6-7 Hill presenting a difficult matchup because of his size and shooting range combination.
The series: UCLA leads the series, 50-37, and won the last meeting, 84-73, Jan. 24 in Tucson. The Bruins are 30-13 against Arizona at Pauley Pavilion, including a 71-49 rout the last time the teams played there in 2011. Last year's UCLA home game was at the Honda Center in Anaheim, won by the Bruins, 65-58.
Fast Fact: This is a pivotal game in the Pac-12 title race with the league's two most storied programs both still in the thick of the hunt for the championship. Fittingly, ESPN's College GameDay will be on hand for the showdown. The GameDay telecast will begin at 7 a.m. PT on ESPNU and will continue at 8 a.m. PT on ESPN. A one-hour GameDay show will air on ESPN at 5 p.m PT leading into the game.
Quick quote: "It's big time that GameDay is here and it just gives us another time to show ourselves on national television," Muhammad said. "We're really excited. They're going to give us 110 percent coming off that loss to USC. We're going to get ready for that. I'm going to relax myself and get ready for this war that we're about to be in."
It was the best collective effort of the season for the freshman class, which has gone through some growing pains this season but appears to be maturing just as the season starts to get serious.
"They all played great," coach Ben Howland said. "There's no question. Those three kids are not playing like freshmen in November. You can see they've improved a lot in a lot of different respects. So that's exciting to see guys improve."
This performance came at an opportune time for the Bruins. They were playing with starting forward Travis Wear -- the team's third-leading scorer -- out because of a foot sprain. And they were up against a team in Arizona State that is on the NCAA tournament bubble and gave the Bruins every ounce of sweat and grit they could handle.
UCLA's young guns stepped up to the task, taking every desperate punch the Sun Devils threw and answered back. Adams led the team with 22 points and had a big 3-point basket at the end of regulation that gave UCLA a 70-68 lead.
Muhammad had a huge first half with 15 points of his 21 points on 6-of-9 shooting before the break to keep the Bruins in the game when Arizona State was shooting lights-out early on. Anderson had a career-high 21 points to go along with 15 rebounds.