Arizona completes comeback to beat UCLA in title game, repeat as Pac-12 Tournament champions
Arizona guard Courtney Ramey said this past offseason his transfer from Texas to the Wildcats was, in part, about playing for a coach who believed in him, with a team that believed in him.
In Saturday’s Pac-12 Tournament championship fight against the top-seeded UCLA Bruins, Ramey was held scoreless for the first 39 minutes and 42 seconds. He missed his first four shots from the field.
But that belief, it was there.
With the clock ticking under 20 seconds to play and the Wildcats trailing by one point, Azuolas Tubelis — the leading scorer in the Pac-12 this season and a player many thought was deserving of the Pac-12 Player of the Year award — passed a tap-back rebound to Ramey at the top of the key.
Ramey took a dribble, planted his heel, stepped back, and fired.
The guard’s 3-pointer went through pure and Arizona went up by two points.
That proved to be the game-winner as the Wildcats came back from as many as nine points down in the second half to beat UCLA 61-59 and claim their second consecutive Pac-12 Tournament championship.
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For much of the evening, it looked like UCLA was going to avenge last year’s title game loss and sweep the Pac-12’s championships. After the Bruins ran away with the regular-season crown, they looked like the more energized team — even down two starters — as they built a lead through the first half and then played through most of the second half on the high side.
Arizona just never went away.
A 3 from Amari Bailey (19 points) with 14:18 to go in the game put the Bruins up nine.
Over the course of the next 5:18, Arizona went on a 13-2 run to take a one-possession lead.
That run got kick-started by a triple from Kerr Kriisa — his first points of the evening. Yes, for the first 26 minutes of the game, Arizona’s starting backcourt was held scoreless.
Kriisa and Ramey were held in check early. UCLA’s energy and activity on the defensive end played a role. The Bruins heated things up, even without Jaylen Clark — the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year. Arizona’s high-low action wasn’t there. Careless passes were taken the other way. Oumar Ballo was taken away.
Then Kriisa saw his first shot go through the net. Then UCLA’s Mac Etienne fouled out. Then Kenneth Nwuba fouled out, leaving the Bruins without an available center, and suddenly Arizona was the aggressor.
Tubelis and Ballo found a little more success down low and Arizona made its move to wrestle back control of the game.
Ballo’s activity on the offensive glass is what kept things alive on Ramey’s game-winner.
UCLA had a chance after that, though.
Point guard Tyger Campbell (16 points) missed the second of two free throws with six seconds to play that would have tied the game at 60-all. On the play that sent Campbell to the free throw line initially, he was a split second away from firing a pass to a wide-open Bailey in the corner for a potential go-ahead 3.
Instead, he was sent to the line. After the miss, Tubelis stepped to the free throw line hoping to put Arizona up by three, but he split his attempts as well.
UCLA’s Jaime Jaquez (13 points) rebounded the miss, pushed the ball up the floor and found an open Dylan Andrews from the wing. Andrews’ 3-pointer at the buzzer was just a touch to the right and bounced away as Arizona erupted in celebration.
The Bruins were held without a made basket from the field over the final 2:52 of the game, missing each of their last four shots and six of their final seven.
Arizona was led by Tubelis’ 19 points. The forward also added 14 rebounds in 33 minutes. Ballo pitched in 13 points and eight boards while Pelle Larsson added 11 points, four rebounds, and five assists.