Pac-12 Tournament semfinal preview: Arizona, UCLA set for title game rematch
LAS VEGAS – The UCLA men's basketball team has knocked Arizona out of the Pac-12 Tournament the past two seasons. But Wildcats guard T.J. McConnell dispelled any revenge talk Thursday after the No. 1 seed Wildcats pulled away in the second half for a 73-51 win over California in the tournament's quarterfinals.
Yes, McConnell and Co. remember the 75-71 loss to the Bruins in last year's title game.
No, it won't be used as any extra motivation when Arizona and UCLA face Friday night at 6 p.m. PT in the semifinals at MGM Grand Garden Arena (Pac-12 Networks).
Instead, McConnell indicated the Wildcats are approaching it, well, like any other game.
Why wouldn't they? Pretty much everything Arizona has done to this point has worked. At 29-3 (16-2 Pac-12), coach Sean Miller's team still has a shot to secure a No. 1 seed in the upcoming NCAA tournament after winning the Pac-12 regular-season title.
"What we say is just play hard and if we play hard against anyone, you know, they're going to have to play really well to beat us," McConnell said.
Arizona beat UCLA 57-47 on Feb. 21 at the McKale Center in the teams' only regular-season meeting. Both sides struggled offensively, with the Wildcats shooting 34 percent and UCLA shooting 38.1 percent.
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"We're going to have to find ways to score the ball," said UCLA coach Steve Alford after the Bruins easily dispatched USC, 96-70, in Thursday's quarterfinals. "They're very good defensively. I thought we tried to match their physical play. They're a physical, athletic team."
The Bruins badly need a win Friday to boost their chances of making the Big Dance. UCLA (20-12) finished the conference season fourth, with a 11-7 record in Pac-12 play. They've won four games in a row. And, in Alford's opinion, the Bruins' schedule should help their postseason aspirations. But right now there aren't any guarantees.
"Our non-conference schedule speaks for itself," Alford said. "We schedule everybody. We're like everybody else, we would like more wins at this point but it's 20 (wins) playing a difficult scheudle in the Pac-12 Conference, where we finished fourth outright in the league. Now we're guaranteed to be top four in the conference tournament... this team's done what they're supposed to."
The Bruins may be without freshman forward Kevon Looney after he caught an elbow to the face and had to leave the first half of Thursday's win over the Trojans. He didn't return to the game, and the team is waiting for the results of a CT scan before making public Looney's injury, according to a report from Yahoo Sports.
If he can't play, that would be a huge loss. Looney averaged almost a double-double during the conference season with 12.3 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. He was a second team All-Pac-12 selection and made the conference's All-Freshman team, too. At 6-foot-9, 220 pounds, he respresents the size UCLA needs to counter Arizona's frontcourt tandem of Brandon Ashley and Kaleb Tarczewski.
On Thursday, Alford didn't know if he will be able to play.
"We're just waiting to hear back word from our UCLA doctors on what prognosis is going to be," he said.
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