Sometimes the big games have easy explanations for their results. This is one of those times.
The UCLA Bruins failed to weather the early storm against the Arizona Wildcats, going down by as much as 17 points in the first half, before valiantly fighting their way back in the second half, cutting the lead to three points with less than four minutes remaining before Arizona was ultimately able to put together one final run, ultimately losing by a final score of 76-66.
It wasn’t surprising to see Arizona come out strong to start this game. I’m sure the way and manner of their loss at Pauley last week sat in the back of their heads all week, and they came out with a hot start. That was exacerbated by a cold shooting night from the Bruins, who went 12-36 from the field in the first half. To make matters worse, Johnny Juzang picked up two fouls that limited him to only nine minutes in the first half, while Tyger Campbell similarly picked up two fouls in the half as well.
We might as well address this now because the subplot of this game has to be the officiating. In the first matchup between these teams, the officiating was very free-flowing and fouls were limited, allowing for an enjoyable game decided by the teams on the court. This game, not so much, as the officials continually hurt the Bruins with questionable calls that limited the Bruins and consistently cut down any momentum they were able to build. Tyger Campbell was hit with a double-technical after Pelle Larsson decided to stand over him instead of grabbing a made basket, which ultimately led to him fouling out. The Bruins were called for 23 personal fouls compared to just 16 for Arizona, and the free-throw discrepancy went 30-12 in favor of the Wildcats. Arizona outscored the Bruins by 13 at the line, which more than accounts for the difference in this game. Just an abysmal outing from the guys in the striped shirts, and I’m certain Coach Cronin is going to have words about that following the game.
What also did not help: three-point shooting. Specifically, the Bruins were not good at it, while Arizona was. UCLA went 1-9 from distance in the first half, and ultimately finished 3-14 on the game. Arizona, meanwhile, shot 4-9 from distance in the first half and 8-22 on the game. The Bruins are normally much better shooters than they proved to be in this game, and it wasn’t a case of an exceptional Arizona defensive effort - many of the missed looks were wide-open.
What I will say is that UCLA did a lot more things right in the second half, which is a nice differentiator from the game last week when Arizona got worse as the game progressed. UCLA ratcheted up the defensive intensity in the second half, holding Arizona to 36% shooting. They also made a more concerted effort on attacking the paint and ultimately outscored Arizona 38-28 down low. The Bruins battled, and where Arizona was never able to make the game close last week, UCLA made this a three-point game under four minutes. It wasn’t enough, but it was encouraging and feels like an important data point if you’re trying to compare these two teams down the stretch.
Jules Bernard led the Bruins with 15 points. Cody Riley had the team lead with eight rebounds, while Tyger Campbell and Jaime Jaquez tied for the team lead with five assists. Kerr Kriisa led the Wildcats with 16 points.
Player of the Game: Jules Bernard - In the first half, Jules was the only Bruin to find some kind of success offensively, and basically kept the Bruins in the game so that others could pick up the slack in the second half. Jules had an all-around solid game, and with so many Bruins playing poorly, you have to give it to him.
Half a game of defense not enough - The Bruins played great defense….for a half. Unfortunately, it was in the second half when they had already dug themselves a hole. Not something they can afford to do on the road, especially against a talented team like Arizona.
Special Pac-12 Refs Strike Again - Huge foul discrepancy favoring Arizona, along with a huge free-throw discrepancy. It would have been nice to get an officiating performance like we saw last week, but asking the officiating in this godforsaken conference to be decent on a consistent basis is just too much apparently.
The Bruins will need to regroup for their next game on Saturday, where they head to Tempe to take on Arizona State. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:00 PM.
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Good summary, Dimitri.
In sports, there is the stuff you can control and the stuff you can't, and I hope our team is only worrying about what they can control. I feel like they played really hard and I'm really proud of how much adversity they overcame to make it a 3 point game late. Unfortunately, they just didn't make enough shots tonight. Johnny was coming back from covid so that may explain his subpar performance. Riley missed on 3 straight possessions down the stretch when he is usually pretty clutch. The team as a whole was ice cold from 3 and those lost points add up in a hurry. I feel like the team wasn't as aggressive or confident as they could have been on offense, esp in the fist half and AZ's size inside likely had something to do with that. So overall, those were a few factors that contributed to a rough performance on the road against a good and highly motivated team and so we came up short. The good news is all of those things are in our team's power to fix and I feel just fine about meeting those assclowns (see their post game act?) again in the Pac12 Tourney.
The things you can't control...I don't know how the officiating continues to be as horrible as it is year after year. AZ made 8 more free throws than we even attempted. That disparity wasn't remotely representative of how that game was played. MFSPTRs. The fact our guys cut it to 3 with that crap going on is even more respectable. Our guys played a gritty grinding game against a ton of adversity and I hope they take a lot of positives out of this performance.
Bring that effort and intensity, shoot better, and go beat ASU.
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