UCLA 66 - Arizona 64
LAS VEGAS – It may not have been for the Pac-12 championship but Friday night’s tournament semifinal certainly had that atmosphere as the two conference preseason favorites battled it out at the MGM Grand Arena. UCLA (25-8) mounted a 2nd half comeback behind a Jordan Adams scoring burst to win its third straight over Arizona, 66-64.
"Another fantastic win in the comeback fashion that we've had back-to-back nights now of," coach Ben Howland said. "Just really proud of our team, how they never quit, they never give up, they never stopped believing in themselves and each other." Adams had just six points at halftime on 1-of-4 shooting but turned it on after the break for a game-high 24. Pac-12 co-Freshman of the Year Shabazz Muhammad added 11 and Kyle Anderson chipped in 10 points, four rebounds and five steals.
The big win sent the Bruins to the final for the first time since 2008 but the celebration was tempered after Adams limped off the floor with a foot injury following the final play. The school later announced that the team's second leading scorer had broken the fifth metatarsal in his right foot and will miss the remainder of the season. Arizona controlled most of the game, leading from the 13:52 mark of 1st half until UCLA pulled ahead with 3:11 remaining. Brandon Ashley led the Wildcats with 15.
It was Adams however who took over in the 2nd half to propel the Bruins to Saturday's championship game. He went on his own run to tie the game, including shooting two free throws thanks to a bench technical by Arizona as part of a spurt of 13 straight points for UCLA. “We were determined not to let Larry Drew beat us like he did in the first two,” Wildcats coach Sean Miller said. “Jordan Adams really stepped up and they made big plays. That’s what March is all about.” Drew didn’t score a point after putting up a career-high 20 against Arizona State in the quarterfinal.
Miller's strategy paid off in limiting UCLA's point guard but the fourth-year coach cost his team by drawing the technical foul that sent Adams to the line to tie the game with 4:37 remaining. "I said, 'He touched the ball. He touched the ball!,'" an animated Miller explained. "(You've) got to stay in the coaching box, and you've got to be real, real careful now as the coach what you say. That's what I've learned." Arizona’s Grant Jerrett hit one of his two 3's with under a minute left from near the top of the arc to tie it up late. But it was another one of UCLA’s freshmen that stepped up late as Anderson grabbed a huge rebound and layup on the other end and put the Bruins up two.
On the game's final possession, Arizona's Solomon Hill stepped inside the arc but missed an open jumper and the Wildcats failed to get the rebound for another chance. UCLA moves on to the Pac-12 Tournament Championship Game on Saturday at 8:30 p.m. PT on ESPN. They will play the winner of the Oregon-Utah semifinal. Arizona awaits its NCAA tournament seeding on Sunday. Game photos (Eric Evans Photography): [gallery ids="1863,1864,1867,1868,1869,1872,1871,1870,2026,2027,2029,2030,2033,2034,2035,2036,2037,2038" orderby="rand"]
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