LAS VEGAS -- How good UCLA is might answer the question of how big of a loss Arizona's 66-64 defeat on Friday really was -- because the Bruins simply looked darn good next to a Wildcat team that had a coming-of-age party itself.
Arizona fell despite sound efforts across the board. But blowing an 11-point lead to UCLA, which the previous night also came back from a double-digit deficit, might be an issue in itself.
Arizona led by 11 points with 10 minutes to play in the game, but UCLA tied it up at 56 with less than five minutes left on a Sean Miller technical, and with 3:11 took a lead on two more foul shots by Shabazz Muhammad. Solomon Hill found Grant Jerrett for a game-tying three-pointer with 57 seconds left, but Kyle Anderson scored on an offensive rebound to put UCLA up by two.
The Wildcats couldn't score on a final possession, as Hill was run off the three-point line and couldn't put in a mid-range jumper. The senior finished with 10 points, six rebounds and five assists.
Big men cometh
Arizona's big men collectively played one of their best games of the season on Friday. Kaleb Tarczewski pulled down nine first-half rebounds en route to 12 total before fouling out. Brandon Ashley added a team-high 15 points. And Grant Jerrett provided his usual solid outside shooting while working the paint with his length on defense.
For the majority of the game, UA's freshmen outplayed UCLA's. Shabazz Muhammad scored his fourth point with 14 minutes left in the game. He did, however, get going as the game wore on -- mostly when Hill was out of the game and off rebounds and garbage plays.
But it was Jordan Adams played his usual casual self in scoring 24 points, and Anderson also led the Bruins with five steals while hitting the biggest shot of the game. A layup off an offensive rebound that gave UCLA the win.
Winning the point guard matchup
Mark Lyons has struggled against Larry Drew II this season. Sean Miller has called UCLA's point guard the Pac-12 Player of the Year, so what better way to stop him than stick Arizona shooting guard Nick Johnson on the playmaker.
Drew scored no points on 0-of-5 shooting and had only four assists.
Meanwhile, Drew struggled to contain Lyons on the other end, as the Wildcat point guard continually found himself driving to the cup, both on and off the ball. Lyons scored 13 points.
But in the end, it didn't matter.
The Vegas experience
- Arizona's contingent only grew at the MGM Grand arena on Friday for the semifinals. Among the notable faces in the crowd were Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver and general manager Lance Blanks, who sat courtside. Rich Rodriguez, for the second day in a row, was in attendance as well
- Boyz II Men performed the national anthem before Arizona's game against UCLA. Let's just saw that it was really damn good.
- The Ooh Ahh man performed his routine -- albeit without the disrobing -- at the corner of the arena in the second half.
I'll have more from the MGM Grand later.