Arizona Wildcats stumble early, can't recover in much-anticipated showdown with UCLA Bruins

Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Wildcat hit just one of their first 13 shots and couldn't climb out of an early 16-point hole, falling to the UCLA Bruins, 84-72, in front of a white-clad, sold-out McKale Center crowd.

At first glance, Thursday's matchup in McKale Center had all the makings of one of the UCLA-Arizona classics of old.

The Bruins had won 10 of 11 despite dropping their last contest at the Oregon, and the Wildcats were 16-1 and the No. 6 team in the country.

That hype lasted all of 53 seconds of game action.

The Arizona Wildcats (16-2, 4-2 Pac-12) hit just one of their first 13 shots and couldn't climb out of an early 16-point hole, falling to the UCLA Bruins 84-73 in front of a white-clad McKale Center crowd of 14,617.

UCLA star Shabazz Muhammad stole the show while playing on the biggest stage of his young college career, scoring 23 points that included a 3-pointer on the Bruins' opening possession. The 6-foot-6 wing connected on three of his first four shots and UCLA (16-4, 6-1 Pac-12) trailed just once, at 1-0. The Bruins moved to 8-0 when Muhammad scores 20 or more points.

Arizona cut the Bruins' lead to four points on two occasions but couldn't get within one possession, and never got into a rhythm on offense. Wildcat point guard Mark Lyons had the worst game of his Arizona career, needing 17 shots to score 16 points and finishing without an assist to go along with five turnovers.

But Lyons wasn't alone in his struggles. Jordin Mayes didn't score and had just one assist in nine minutes while freshman center Kaleb Tarczewski went scoreless and grabbed a single rebound.

The Bruins' trio of freshmen combined for 46 points while Arizona's combined for 14.

Jordan Adams and David Wear joined Muhammad in double digits for the Bruins, who played most of the game without forward Travis Wear after he left with concussion-like symptoms. The Bruins' rotation was cut to six players while Adams underwent treatment for cramps midway through the second half, but the Wildcats couldn't take advantage.

Nick Johnson scored 23 points for Arizona and Solomon Hill added 13 of his own. The UA grabbed 18 offensive rebounds but UCLA — which has struggled with rebounding — finished with a 45-44 edge on the glass. The Wildcats' lack of a distributor was as clear as it's been all year, as they assisted on just 10 of 28 field goals while committing 13 turnovers.

Arizona's performance was easily its worst of the year and the Wildcats now face a steep climb to win the Pac-12, having to gain three games on the Oregon Ducks, who own the head-to-head tiebreaker.

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