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Arizona men’s basketball avenges loss at UCLA, beating Bruins to take back 1st place in Pac-12

arizona-wildcats-mens-basketball-recap-ucla-bruins-pac12-2022-highlights-stats-rematch-kerr-kriisa Photo by Rebecca Noble/Getty Images

In the middle of the worst shooting game of his career, Kerr Kriisa was serenaded with chants of “MVP! MVP!” by the UCLA student section during a 16-point loss to the Bruins. Ten days later, he—and Arizona—got its revenge.

Kriisa scored a team-high 16 points, hitting three 3-pointers including a game-clinching one with 1:50 left to help the Wildcats get revenge with a 76-66 victory on Thursday night at McKale Center.

Seventh-ranked Arizona (18-2, 8-1 Pac-12) ended a 6-game skid to UCLA (16-3, 8-2) and moved back into first place in the conference and is now a game up in the loss column on the third-ranked Bruins.

Azuolas Tubelis had 14 points—despite playing only 19 minutes and sitting out the final 10 while still dealing with a high ankle sprain—Pelle Larsson had 12, Bennedict Mathurin had 11 and Dalen Terry chipped 10 points, nine rebounds and seven assists.

The UA shot 48 percent, hitting at a 60 percent clip in the first half, and were 8 of 22 from 3 after shooting 30.7 percent last week in the 75-59 loss at UCLA. The Bruins shot 44 percent and managed only eight points off Arizona’s 15 turnovers and just nine points on 12 offensive rebounds.

Arizona led 42-30 at halftime, a complete reversal of the 11-point deficit it faced halfway through at UCLA, but it started out the second half very sloppy. That allowed the Bruins cut the margin to eight with 17:47 left, then a Tyger Campbell drive (off a blocked 3-point attempt by Kerr Kriisa) cut the UA lead to 51-44 with 14:46 to go.

UCLA got within 53-47 shortly after a scuffle between Campbell and Pelle Larsson—with Campbell grabbing Larsson’s leg as he tried to step over him on the baseline—resulted in a double technical, but Arizona got the lead back into double digits. It couldn’t deal a finishing blow, though, going nearly three minutes without scoring before Bennedict Mathurin drained a 3 late in the shot clock to make it 64-54 with 7:05 left.

A 7-0 run got the Bruins within 64-61 on a Jaime Jaquez Jr. layup with 3:52 left. Campbell got his fourth foul, with Christian Koloko making 1 of 2 free throws, then after an Oumar Ballo block Koloko made two more foul shots to built td lead back to 67-61 with 2:56 remaining.

Kriisa then drained his third 3-pointer, off Terry’s seventh assist, to make it 70-61 with 1:50 left. Campbell fouled out 25 seconds later, finishing with 9 points on 4-of-14 shooting, and Arizona made 6 of 6 free throws the rest of the way.

The Wildcats were 20 of 30 from the line, winning their 13th straight game when attempting 20 or more foul shots.

Tubelis was active early, getting five touches on Arizona’s first six possessions. UCLA led by one at the first media timeout, but after that the Wildcats scored 19 of the next 23 points including a 12-0 run capped by back-to-back 3-pointers from Kriisa and Justin Kier to build a 28-14 lead with 8:56 left in the first half.

A 3-point play by Mathurin and a transition basket by Larsson off a Dalen Terry outlet pass put the Wildcats up 42-25 with 2:12 left but then ended the half with three empty possessions to lead by 12 at the break.

Arizona hosts No. 19 USC on Saturday, looking for its first home sweep of the Los Angeles schools since 2016.