If that’s the last time Arizona and UCLA ever play at McKale Center, boy did we get a hell of a swan song.
The 12th-ranked Wildcats rallied from down 19, trailing by 17 early in the second half, to beat the Bruins 77-71 on Saturday afternoon. It was the UA’s largest comeback win since a 19-point rally against Drexel in 2013 and kept it unbeaten at home this season.
Arizona (14-4, 5-2 Pac-12) scored on 13 consecutive possessions during an 8-minute stretch in the second half, making 10 of its final 13 shots after sitting at 28 points with less than 16 minutes to go. After that the Wildcats outscored UCLA 49-26.
Pelle Larsson had a career-high 22 points, 14 in the second half including four free throws with 6:04 left to put Arizona ahead for good, while Oumar Ballo had 17 points and 13 rebounds and was 7 of 8 from the line. Caleb Love had 14 and KJ Lewis added a career-high 13 off the bench.
Arizona was 25 of 29 from the line, making 22 of 23 free throws in the second half.
UCLA (8-11, 3-5) got 21 points from Sebastian Mack and 17 from Lazar Stefanovic but it had both its starting big men foul out. The Bruins tied a season high with nine 3-pointers, making six in the first 12 minutes, but were 3 of 17 from outside in the second half.
The Wildcats trailed 37-28 at halftime but less than two minutes into the second half they were down by 15, forcing Lloyd to call timeout. UCLA got the lead up to 17 before the under-16 timeout.
Arizona didn’t score until the 15:39 mark, missing its first six shots. But then it started getting UCLA into foul trouble, drawing a third on both Adem Bona and Stefanovic and the third and fourth on Berke Buyuktuncel in a 3-minute span.
Love’s 3-pointer cut it to 50-40 with 11:57 left, Lewis hit a triple to get within 53-45 with 9:38 to go and Kylan Boswell swished a 3 (after starting the possession with a leaping steal along the sideline) to make it a 55-50 game with 8:32 remaining.
The Wildcats had been 3 of 22 from outside before making those three in a row.
Bona picked up his fourth foul with 8:01 left, and Ballo made both free throws to make it a 3-point game, but UCLA’s Mack responded at the other end with a 3. It remained a 2-possession game for another minute before Larsson got a steal, drove the court and drew Stefanovic’s fourth.
UCLA coach Mick Cronin lost his mind shortly thereafter, getting hit with a technical foul, and Larsson made all four free throws to tie it at 60 with 6:04 left.
The UA took its first lead since 3-0 thanks to a lucky bounce—UCLA’s Kenneth Nwuba missed a wide-open dunk—and a 3-point play by Love that fouled out Buyuktuncel, giving it a 67-65 lead with 4:14 to go.
The Wildcats built a 2-score lead and stayed ahead the rest of the game by continuing to convert on the offensive end while getting a stop or two. Larsson’s putback roller iced it with 56.7 seconds left, then he drew a charge 13 seconds later and UCLA’s final possession saw it missed four 3s.
UCLA made its first two 3s and started 6 of 9 from outside, shooting 60 percent over the first 12 minutes. A 13-0 run put the Bruins up 32-13 with 7:40 left in the first half.
But then Arizona held UCLA without scoring for 4:36 and without a field goal for more than five minutes, cutting the deficit to 33-24 with 2:42 to go before the break.
The Wildcats had multiple chances in the final minutes of the half to get closer, including on the final possession, but Love’s drive into traffic rimmed out.
Arizona is back on the road next week, visiting Oregon State on Thursday night and first-place Oregon on Saturday afternoon.