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Offense sputters as Arizona men’s basketball falls at UCLA

arizona-wildcats-mens-basketball-recap-ucla-bruins-pac12-2022-highlights-stats-offense Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

Now we know what it looks like when the Arizona Wildcats can’t run, and it wasn’t pretty.

The UA shot a season-low 30.7 percent, its worst shooting performance in almost two years, and managed just three fast-break points in a 75-59 loss at No. 7 UCLA on Tuesday night.

The makeup of a game originally scheduled for Dec. 30 saw the third-ranked Wildcats (16-2, 6-1 Pac-12) fall to the Bruins (14-2, 6-1) for the sixth straight time. The teams will have a rematch on Feb. 3 at McKale Center.

Bennedict Mathurin led the UA with 16 points but he was just 5 of 22 from the field. Christian Koloko added 11 and Pelle Larsson—who started a second straight game for Azuolas Tubelis, who had eight points, six rebounds and two assists in 15 minutes off the bench in his return from a sprained left ankle—had 10, but guards Kerr Kriisa and Dalen Terry went a combined 0 for 17 with Kriisa missing all 12 shots including 0 for 9 from 3.

Kriisa also had six assists and a season-high four turnovers as the UA gave it away 14 times.

UCLA shot 50 percent, the best of any UA opponent this season, including 53.1 percent in the first half, and was 8 of 17 from 3.

After averaging 89 points in blowout wins at Stanford and Cal over the weekend, Arizona’s third road game in six days saw it start very hot but then go ice cold for the final 35-plus minutes. The 59 points were 14 below its previous season low of 73 that came in its only other loss at Tennessee on Dec. 22.

As bad as going 7 of 28 from 3 was, the Wildcats couldn’t score in the paint like they normally do. They were 16 of 47 on 2-point shots including 6 of 23 on layups, with UCLA blocking eight UA shots.

Arizona trailed 40-29 at the break and continued the cold spell it had for the last 16 minutes of the first half. The Wildcats missed 10 of their first 12 as UCLA build a 50-34 lead before Mathurin and Tubelis converted back-to-back 3-point plays to get within 10 with 13:33 left.

Tubelis and Mathurin hit consecutive 3s to cut the deficit to 53-46 with 12:50 remaining, but UCLA scored the next eight points to go back up 15 with just over 11 minutes to go.

Justin Kier’s drive got the Wildcats within 61-53 with 7:43 remaining only to see the Bruins hit a pair of 3s to put the margin back up to 14 with 6:29 left.

The Wildcats were unstoppable early, making 6 of their first 7 shots including 4 of 4 from 3 to lead 16-12 with 15:50 left in the first half. They wouldn’t score again for almost six minutes, missing nine straight shots at one point to fall behind by eight.

Arizona only managed 13 points the rest of the first half, shooting 35.3 percent and missing 11 of 15 3s.

The biggest deficit of the first half came with 1:25 left after Jules Bernard hit a long 2, but the Wildcats scored the final four points of the first half including a driving layup by Larsson just before the buzzer.

Arizona returns home to take on ASU (6-11, 2-5) on Saturday at McKale Center. The Wildcats’ next three games are in Tucson.