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3 up, 3 down from Arizona’s meltdown at UCLA

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The good and the bad from UA’s third straight loss

Arizona v UCLA Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

After yet another late-game collapse, the Arizona Wildcats lost for the third straight time Saturday night, falling to the UCLA Bruins 69-64 at Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles.

The L dropped the Wildcats to 19-10 overall and 9-7 in conference play with just two games remaining in the regular season before the Pac-12 Tournament.

While our full recap of Saturday’s game can be found here, and a breakdown of what UA assistant coach Jack Murphy said afterwards here (Murphy stood in for an ejected Sean Miller), below is a further analysis of the Wildcats’ loss to the Bruins.

Up

Nico Mannion

Yes, he didn’t do enough in the final minutes of the game to get the win, but after really struggling against USC, Mannion showed out on Saturday night against UCLA.

He finished with 19 points and 6 assists to lead the Wildcats, knocking down the kind of shots he’s often struggled to make this season, while getting his teammates involved at the same time.

He really got going midway through the second half, scoring 11 of his 19 points in the final period, and showing off his court vision with some highlight passes that led to dunks for Christian Koloko and Zeke Nnaji.

Mannion’s scoring ability was on display too, as he knocked down an array of different shots to put Arizona in a position to win the game.

His 19 points were the second-most he’s scored in conference play this year, and even in what was ultimately a heartbreaking loss, this was the Nico Mannion Arizona fans have been waiting to see.

Interior presence

Arizona dominated the Bruins inside Saturday night, outscoring them 32-14 in points in the paint and out-rebounding them 36-35.

Nnaji and Koloko both had good games, going for 16 points, 10 rebounds and 8 points, 4 rebounds respectively. Chase Jeter even managed to score a bucket in three minutes of action.

It didn’t result in a win, but the Wildcats’ physical play was surprising considering how UCLA manhandled them a few weeks ago at McKale.

So, even in a loss, their physicality was worth commending.

Hazz is back

After missing Thursday’s game against USC for a still unknown “personal reason” Max Hazzard was back in the lineup for the Wildcats against UCLA, adding some much needed depth to the UA bench.

The senior guard finished with 7 points, 4 rebounds and 2 assists in his return, finishing as Arizona’s fourth leading scorer behind Mannion, Nnaji and Koloko.

He knocked down what seemed to be a huge three to make it 60-56 with under 5 minutes remaining, and if not for his team’s collapse in the final moments, Hazzard would have been looked at as a big reason why the Cats were able to come away with Westwood with a dub.

It wasn’t to be though, and while we still don’t know why he didn’t play against USC, it was definitely a welcome sight to see Hazzard back on the court with the Pac-12 and (hopefully) NCAA tournaments looming.

Down

Late-game execution

Writing this honestly feels like deja vu.

Once again, the Wildcats collapsed late in a game Saturday night — this time blowing a 4 point lead with just over two minutes remaining in the game.

Even more jarring is the fact that after Hazzard hit a three to make it 60-56 with 4:51 remaining, UCLA went on a 13-4 run to steal the win. In that time, Arizona was 2 for 8 from the field and committed 4 turnovers and there was one stretch were the Cats turned the ball over three possessions in a row.

At this point, this might just be who this team is, but it doesn’t make it any less ridiculous watching in real time. The truth is, Arizona should have absolutely won this game. They just weren’t good enough down the stretch.

It’s something they need to figure out ASAP, otherwise their March Madness won’t last too long.

Jemarl Baker Jr.

With Josh Green missing once again, Arizona needed contributions from pretty much everyone if they were going to beat UCLA Saturday night.

One guy who the UA didn’t get enough from was Baker Jr.

The backup guard didn’t score, going 0 for 3 from the field and 0 for 1 from 3 in a 19-minute appearance. He had just one assist and a turnover as well.

There were other guys who had quiet games, Stone Gettings finished with only four points and Ira Lee just two, but a better game from Bake would have gone a long way for Arizona Saturday night.

Fouls (and officiating?)

The Wildcats actually out-shot and out-rebounded their opponent Saturday night — normally a formula for success, but what really hurt the Cats was the amount of fouls they committed.

The UA fouled UCLA 27 times, resulting in 38 free throws for the Bruins. In contrast, UCLA committed only 17 fouls, sending Arizona to the foul line 16 times.

The discrepancy in those numbers really made a difference in the game, as the Bruins were able to knock down 29 of those foul shots, compared to just 10 from Arizona.

Miller was so incensed at the officiating that he got ejected for (incorrectly) arguing for a foul in the second half.

This isn’t an excuse, and the Wildcats should have never ever collapsed the way they did, but there is no doubt that the officials didn’t help them out.