So that lived up to the hype.
Thanks to a late first half run, Arizona pulled out to a double-digit lead, and was able to stay in front of UCLA the rest of the way, leaving L.A. with a road sweep, a 7-0 conference record, and a 96-85 victory over the nation’s third-ranked team.
Heading into the game, the big story was the return of Allonzo Trier, who returned to the floor after what ended up being a 19-game suspension for failing a PED test. Trier was cleared by the NCAA to play on Friday evening.
Even with their top returning scorer, the Wildcats stayed with the starting lineup that has gotten them to this point.
Trier subbed in at the first media timeout, and immediately had his presence felt, just not by shooting. He picked up three quick rebounds, and seemed to fit in the offense right away.
It took 19 minutes and four attempts before Trier made his way into the scoring column for the first time this year, which was an open three after a Parker Jackson-Cartwright drive-and-kick.
Trier followed that up with a coast-to-coast layup to end the first half to cap a 19-8 run, and put Arizona up 48-37 at the break.
He was one of six Wildcats to score in double figures on the day, scoring 12 points and pulling in a shared team-high seven rebounds. UCLA had five guys in double figures, as both teams just played great, team offense the entire day.
Just a great game. Here are some of the main takeaways:
Kobi channels Kobe
Did you know that whenever Kobi Simmons is in L.A., you have to bring up Kobe Bryant? It’s the law.
So Simmons made sure that he left his imprint on the game, taking by far the most shots of any Arizona player, resulting in a game-high 20 points.
Coming into the game, it seemed like Simmons would be the one that would lose minutes due to Trier’s return, but he certainly made his case for getting just as much floor time as he was getting. We’ll see what happens moving forward, but for the time being, Trier’s presence had no impact on Simmons’ game.
It also had to do with Rawle Alkins being in foul trouble for basically the entire game. Alkins only played 17 minutes.
Leaf and Lauri
Among the many things to happen in this game, the showdown between Lauri Markkanen and TJ Leaf was everything we were hoping for really. It was two extremely skilled bigs going head-to-head, and every time they were pitted against each other with the ball, one or both of them made a spectacular play.
Their stats at the end of the day sort of mirrored each other up until the end of the game. Markkanen ended with 18 points (3-of-4 from three) and seven rebounds, while Leaf went for 12 and three.
Lauri got the last laugh, getting the slam at the end of the game to put this one away for good thanks to a PJC “pass” off the bottom of the backboard.
Chance cashes in
With the way UCLA defends, Chance Comanche was actually a better option than Dusan Ristic, and the sophomore took advantage. He managed eight points in the first half, including a long jumper thrown in for good measure. He was absolutely outplaying Dusan, and earned almost as many minutes as the Wildcats’ starter in the first half.
Ristic picked things up in the second half, draining a long two of his own, and showing an increased amount of confidence compared to the first half.
If Arizona can get both centers clicking at once for more than a half, who knows what this team can do. Comanche finished with ten points, while Ristic had 11.
Going off of the last point, UCLA actually had five blocks in the first half, but only one in the second half. Arizona was able to outrebound them by a fairly wide margin (42-33), limiting the Bruins’ second chance opportunities early on.
The final numbers ended up a bit closer in this regard, but that was thanks to a couple of mini-runs from UCLA in the final ten minutes.
Arizona returns to McKale Center on Thursday when they host the Washington State Cougars. That game is scheduled to start at 7:30 PM MT on Pac-12 Networks.