The past two games for the Arizona Wildcats couldn't have put the idea of momentum into the mythology books more than any other two-game stretch from this season. After blasting the Arizona State Sun Devils thanks to a free-flowing offense that came by way of a solid defensive effort, the Wildcats couldn't find any offensive rhythm in a slow-paced, 65-58 loss to the UCLA Bruins on Thursday night.
Match-up problems posed by the Bruins was the action, and poor shot selection for Arizona was the reaction.
And just as expected, UCLA made its point with its length in the paint, even as 6-foot-10 center Joshua Smith sat out with a concussion. 6-foot-10 forwards David and Travis Wear combined for 34 points and eight rebounds, but their mark on the game went beyond the box score.
The duo kept Arizona from any easy buckets in the paint, and starting big men Jesse Perry and Solomon Hill struggled. Despite Hill putting in 16 points and 12 rebounds and Perry's 13 points, the two Wildcats' combined for 12-for-27 from the field. As a team, Arizona hit only 37 percent of its shots and could only knock down 3-of-17 from three-point range.
Overall, the Bruins got the win by way of winning the identity battle. They slowed the pace and kept the offenses in the halfcourt. The Bruins weren't anything special on offense, hitting 44 percent of their shots, and they didn't necessarily kill Arizona on the boards. The Wildcats actually got three more field goal attempts (57-to-54) than UCLA.
It simply came down to getting good shots.
UCLA only threw up nine three-pointers, and the Bruins got the majority of their points by throwing it in the paint and shooting over a small Arizona team. Easy as that.
Field goal percentage was the game, and the Bruins won it easily.
- Josiah Turner found himself back in the starting lineup for Sean Miller's Wildcats, and he scored nine points, grabbed six rebounds and led UA with three assists. Turner's presence brings much more than Jordin Mayes, especially if he's not going to be hitting open jumpers, though the Wildcats could benefit by putting Turner in some pick-and-rolls with Perry and Hill; that's where the freshman's vision and passing ability can shine the most.
- After Hill's 15 shots and Perry's 12, the most field goal attempts any other Wildcat took was Kyle Fogg's six. The unbalanced scoring opportunities were both a result of the Bruins' solid man defense as well as an Arizona offense that didn't move the ball well. UA had just nine assists as a team to go with 15 turnovers.
- Arizona's bench struggled, scoring just 11 points on the night. Brendon Lavender scored six points on two three-pointers in limited action, and it will be a continued belief by this writer that Miller needs to give one of the Wildcats' few shooting threats more playing time.
- Hill committed six turnovers on the night and went 2-for-6 from the foul stripe. That's bad, but as some Wildcat fans on Twitter freaked out, I don't believe it's fair to come down hard on Hill for trying too hard. There's a reason Miller has been a Hill fan since his freshman season, and there's really no better options in games like these than to give Hill the ball and allow him to make plays -- successful or not.