LAS VEGAS–Arizona rammed shots, threw poor passes, and watched UCLA build what seemed to be an insurmountable lead. Then the Wildcats found gear that some teams had—maybe another team didn’t.
Now they are the Pac-12 champions, likely number one on Selection Sunday and among the favorites to win the National Championship.
Not bad for a team in its first season under a new coach.
Benedict Mathurin He scored 27 points and second-place Arizona took advantage of a massive second-half run to defeat No. 13 UCLA 84-76 Saturday night, winning the first-season Pac-12 tournament for coach Tommy Lloyd.
“These are long matches and we are a running team,” Lloyd said. “I’m always like, ‘Wait there, wait there, we could be two things away from running. “We did a good job commenting there.”
The Wildcats and Bruins put on a Vegas-worthy showing of the top two in the conference, exchanging athletics and big runs in their first full-time PAC 12 championship in three years.
The top-seeded Wildcats (31-4) played their second game in a row without a point guard CARE KRESSA Due to a right ankle sprain he suffered in the quarter-final against Stanford. alternative, Justin Kerrwas limited to 13 minutes due to a bad problem, exhausting Arizona’s depth even more.
Arizona struggled without Chrisa and Kerr, falling into a 12-point hole early in the second half before speeding up one of the nation’s best offenses. The Wildcats went in a 22-5 race to lead 63-58 and shoot the McKale Center North (T-Mobile Arena) crowd.
Arizona maintained Strip’s offensive display to sweep the Pac-12 regular season and championship titles for the seventh time. This was the Wildcats’ eighth Pac-12 Championship title, for the first time since 2018
“When we’re under 10 or 20, we have the same mentality of playing hard so there’s no more time on the clock,” Mathurin said after enjoying one of the festive cakes from a table outside the Arizona locker room.
The second-seeded Bruins (25-7) closed in on Arizona for long stretches and looked set to repeat their lopsided win at Westwood in January.
UCLA went into a state of prolonged offensive funk after climbing 53-41, resulting in the attack of the fast-playing Wildcats and their raucous fans. The Bruins tried to fight back, but the Wildcats fended off each time.
UCLA withdrew within 80-76 in the last minute, but Christian Koloko And the Omar Baloo He had three blocked shots in the last 38 seconds. Palo saved six shots in total, Koloko four, and Arizona tied the championship record with 11.
Jules Bernard He scored 19 points and Jaime Jaques Jr. 18 to lead the Bruins.
“I thought Arizona was the toughest team along the stretch. That’s where the game was decided,” UCLA coach Mick Cronin said. “They were more physical. Our defense left a lot to be desired, to say the least.”
Sin City switched to Hoops City after two years of pandemic restrictions, with five conference tournaments played over nine days. The Pac-12 final topped the tent a few steps away from The Strip, the conference’s top two teams during the regular season.
The Bruins and the Wildcats put on a high-profile show in the first half – when the fouls weren’t called.
Wildcats whistled 12 times and Kerr was limited to eight minutes after making three fouls. Bruins have been called up for nine fouls, including two on three.
UCLA led 40-35 in the first inning after Juzang hit 3 at the bell.
“I don’t know if they get called upset — that’s how these games go,” Lloyd said. “We just had to stay there.”
The blows kept coming.
Kerr received his fourth foul 62 seconds into the second half and Koloko was called to foul Flagrant 1 on his elbow to Bernard’s head.
Bernard made free throws and Tiger Campbell He hit a birdie to close out a 10-2 round that took UCLA to a 50-39 lead.
Big man at UCLA Cody Riley Then he went to the bench with his fourth foul. Arizona capitalized on its big run and kept it going, scoring 16 of 24 shots in the second half.
“Maybe it was a snowball effect,” said Bernard. “We started the half with two back doors, one on me and one on someone else. But, regardless, I feel their energy on both ends was better than ours.”
Arizona has this effect.
The Big Picture
UCLA’s defense was great early on, but faltered once Arizona rolled. The Bruins are still good enough to make some noise again in the NCAA Championship.
Arizona, after a slow start, offered gear that few teams could match. That is why they are among the favorites to win the national title.
UCLA: Likely to remain a top seed in the NCAA
ARIZONA: Should be the #1 seed on Sunday selection.