The Arizona Wildcats have been patiently awaiting a rematch with the UCLA Bruins. Last time they saw the Bruins, the Wildcats dug deep and came all the way back from a huge second half deficit, only to watch Bryce Alford hit a three in the closing seconds. On Friday night, the Wildcats got their rematch and got their revenge, defeating the Bruins 81-75.
For a while, it appeared that revenge wouldn't be had. Quite frankly, it was ugly. Arizona struggled mightily in the first half as they couldn't seem to make anything from the field. UCLA led early and often, watching Arizona shoot less than 30% from the field. Isaac Hamilton led the way for the Bruins with 15 first half points. Parker Jackson-Cartwright tried his best to keep the Wildcats in the game, scoring 11 in the first half. UCLA led by as much as 11 and led 44-34 at the break.
Arizona needed a gut check in the second half, and that was delivered by a wonderful group effort and some extremely whistle-happy referees. Arizona would shoot 29 more free throws than UCLA when all was said and done.
Allonzo Trier only had three points in the first half, not making a single field goal. But Arizona's star freshman refused to be denied, attacking the basket at will, scoring 15 second half points, including this:
After an Isaac Hamilton and-one, the Wildcats trailed 70-69 with just 3:23 to go. They would respond with a 9-0 run, led by Gabe York and ferocious rebounding by Kaleb Tarczewski.
Trier led the Cats with 18 points. Ryan Anderson had yet another double-double, with 11 points and 13 rebounds. Kaleb Tarczewski had a career-high 14 rebounds, chipping in nine points as well. UCLA's Isaac Hamilton led all scorers with 24 points.
A few thoughts on the game...
- It's excellent to see this team continue to fight back, no matter how much they're down, especially the way they did on Friday. UCLA was on fire in the first half and Arizona tightened things up in the second. But even better than the defense, the offensive rebounding was fantastic. In key moments, Zeus and Ryan Anderson stepped up huge, taking advantage of UCLA's big men being in foul trouble.
- Speaking of foul trouble... It got a little out of hand. 50 fouls between the two teams. 61 free throws. Arizona shot a very mediocre 64% from the line but they shot 29 more free throws than UCLA and made 17 more. Arizona fans won't complain about getting a W, but a +17 in the FTA category was extremely helpful. Bad officiating that favors your team...is bad officiating, nonetheless. It should be noted that two of the referees were part of the crew that completely botched the end of Boise State/Colorado State on Wednesday night.
- After that second half, I think it's safe to say: Allonzo Trier is back.
The Wildcats get their 20th win of the season, improving to 20-5 and 8-4 in Pac-12 play. They'll look to avenge another heartbreaking loss from earlier this season against the USC Trojans on Sunday night.