UCLA and Arizona meet for Pac-12 crown
03/15/2014 8:33 AM
03/15/2014 8:36 AM
Las Vegas, NV (SportsNetwork.com) - Fittingly enough, the top-two seeds in the Pac-12 Conference Tournament will decide the champion, as the Arizona Wildcats clash with the UCLA Bruins at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
Arizona has all but locked up a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, entering play in this duel with an overall record of 30-3 and the Pac-12 regular season title in hand. The Wildcats didn't have much trouble in the quarter or semifinals of this event, topping Utah (71-39) and Colorado (63-43). They will now try to add to their conference-best four tourney titles, although the last one came back in 2002.
UCLA is making a return to the final of this event, having fallen short to Oregon (78-69) last year. The Bruins have been just as dominant as the Wildcats in their run through this year's tourney, toping Oregon (82-63) in the quarterfinals and Stanford (84-59) in the semis. A win on Saturday would give them their fourth Pac-12 title and first since 2008 when they rolled all the way to the Final Four.
Although UCLA leads the all-time series 52-38, it was Arizona that came out on top in the only meeting this season, earning a 79-75 win in Los Angeles on Jan. 9.
UCLA didn't seem to miss and also kept Stanford in check offensively on Friday. The Bruins ended up shooting 65.2 percent from the floor, while holding a 40-26 scoring edge in the paint. They also claimed a 35-22 edge on the glass, while limiting the Cardinal to 39.2 percent shooting.
UCLA is always a tough team to slow down, as it ranks 11th in the country in scoring (82 ppg), while placing among the top-20 in both assists (17.2 apg) and field goal percentage (.491). Kyle Anderson (14.8 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 6.6 apg) leads the way as one of only four players nationally who is averaging at least 14 points, six assists and five rebounds per game. Adams (17.2 ppg) is the team's leading scorer, and Zach LaVine (10.2 ppg) and Norman Powell (11.2 ppg) add additional firepower. Powell was the most productive against Stanford, dropping in 22 points, while Travis Wear tallied 16 and Anderson finished with 13 points, eight rebounds and seven assists.
The Wildcats got more of a fight from Colorado than they did from Utah, but a dominant second half powered them to the 20-point victory. They connected on 60 percent from the field and limited the Buffaloes to only five field goals over the final 20 minutes.
Sean Miller, who was named the Pac-12 Coach of the Year, is mentoring one of the best defensive teams in the country this season. Arizona ranks in the top-10 in scoring defense (57.6 ppg), assists against (9 apg), and opponent field goal percentage (.379). With such dominant play at that end of the court, the Wildcats have not had to be as potent offensively, as they net just 73.1 ppg. Nick Johnson (16.1 ppg) and Aaron Gordon (12.2 ppg, 7.8 rpg) joined their coach in picking up postseason hardware, with Johnson named the Pac-12 Player of the Year, and Gordon laying claim to the award for the top freshman. T.J. McConnell (8.6 ppg, 5.5 apg) has run the point well after transferring in from Duquesne. The team is still trying to find a consistent replacement for Brandon Ashley (11.5 ppg), but Kaleb Tarczewski (10 ppg, 6.6 rpg) has made strides.
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