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Turnovers, defensive breakdowns doom Arizona in loss at UCLA in regular-season finale

Wildcats play Thursday in Pac-12 quarterfinals as No. 2 seed

arizona-wildcats-mens-college-basketball-ucla-bruins-recap-final-score-highlights-stats-2023-pac12 Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Arizona was locked into the No. 2 seed for the Pac-12 Tournament, and it’s probably getting no worse than a No. 3 seed for the NCAA tourney.

That didn’t make Saturday’s regular-season finale at UCLA meaningless, but there was a lot less at stake than their could have been. Which is good, because after the first nine minutes or so the Wildcats did not put forth a particularly strong effort in losing 82-73 to the fourth-ranked Bruins at Pauley Pavilion.

No. 8 Arizona ends the regular season with a 25-6 overall record and a 14-6 mark in Pac-12 play, finishing four games behind the Bruins (27-4, 18-2) in the league standings. The Wildcats, as the No. 2 seed in the Pac-12 tourney in Las Vegas, will play in Thursday’s quarterfinals at 7 p.m. MT against the winner of Wednesday’s first round game between No. 7 Utah and No. 10 Stanford.

The UA led by 11 early, but a 15-0 UCLA run turned the tide and the Wildcats never led over the final 27-plus minutes as they turned it over 17 times (leading to 16 Bruin points) and yielded 11 offensive rebounds as well as 12 second-chance points.

Azuolas Tubelis had 24 points on 8-of-13 shooting with 10 rebounds before fouling out late, becoming the first player since Cal’s Leon Powe to lead the Pac-12 in scoring and rebounding. He had 16 points in the first half, 14 in the 8:32 of the game, while fellow conference Player of the Year contender Jaime Jaquez Jr. had 16 of his 22 points in the second half.

Kylan Boswell had 14 points, making a career-best four 3-pointers, and Kerr Kriisa had 13 points with three 3s. But Oumar Ballo had just six points, going 2 for 4 from the field, while Courtney Ramey had a disastrous regular-season finale with 4 points on 2-of-11 shooting and a career-worst six turnovers.

Arizona trailed 40-37 at halftime, a deficit that grew to double digits just over two minutes later as UCLA scored the first eight points of the second half and Tommy Lloyd had to call timeout. After play resume, the Wildcats held the Bruins scoreless for more than 3 ½ minutes and got within six but missed out on several chances to get closer.

A 3 by Pelle Larsson got the UA within 53-47 with 10:44 left but it was the only make over a nearly 7-minute span. Meanwhile, Tubelis got his third and fouls and UCLA built a 14-point lead, with Jaquez making back-to-back 3-point plays to make it 64-50 with 7:13 remaining.

A 7-0 run cut the deficit to 68-61 on a Boswell 3 with 3:43 to go but then the UA turned it over on two of the next three possessions and UCLA got the lead back to 13. The Wildcats got within seven a few more times but the Bruins made their free throws down the stretch to ice it.

Arizona jumped out to a 13-2 lead, with Tubelis outscoring the Bruins over the first seven-plus minutes. UCLA started 3 of 16 from the field but got six offensive rebounds in the first nine minutes to keep the Wildcats from running away.

A 15-0 run gave UCLA a 6-point lead as Arizona started turning it over and going cold from the field. The Wildcats got within two but the Bruins made nine of their final 12 shots to lead by three at the break.

Arizona heads into the Pac-12 tourney having dropped two of three but is 8-0 immediately after a loss under Lloyd, who has yet to lose back-to-back games as a head coach.