Arizona snaps UCLA's 14-game win streak with massive victory at home
Arizona upended the fifth-ranked UCLA Bruins at home on Saturday, ending a 14-game winning streak for UCLA, and reminding the Pac-12 the defending champs are still a force to be reckoned with — particularly at McKale Center.
Oumar Ballo put in 16 points and eight boards while Azuolas Tubelis double-doubled with 14 points and 10 boards, looking like the frontcourt force they were earlier in Arizona’s campaign as the Wildcats raced out of the starting block.
The 11th-ranked Wildcats (17-3, 6-3 Pac-12) looked for a moment like they’d cruise to a double-digit victory before UCLA fought back late to make things interesting. In the end, though, Arizona emerged with a 58-52 win.
Given the start to the season for the Bruins (17-3, 8-1 Pac-12), Saturday’s result could give the Wildcats a bit of a psychological edge in the series moving forward. Arizona and UCLA finished 1-2 in the conference’s regular-season standings last season, then met for the Pac-12 Tournament championship.
They’re widely expected to finish 1-2 in the standings again this season.
But Arizona has now won three straight in the series. The Wildcats have also won three in a row against the Bruins while UCLA is ranked in the AP Top 5.
Tommy Lloyd is now 10-3 against ranked opponents as the Wildcats’ head coach. He’s 3-0 against top-five sides.
And the Wildcats were able to do it with what was the lowest-scoring game they’ve played under Lloyd’s watch. In fact, Saturday’s result was the first time since 2015 that Arizona has won a game while failing to score at least 60 points.
“I’m super proud of our guys,” Lloyd said after the game. “Over these seasons, you gotta be able to win multiple ways. Obviously, UCLA was able to get that game at their tempo, but I think we were comfortable the whole time — maybe except for that last minute when we were trying to ride out that lead. But other than that, I think we were comfortable the whole time, which is a good sign for our guys.
“I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what we’re as a program, me being in my second year and obviously expectations and standards are really high, which is great. I always welcome that. But, I think about Courtney Ramey. When Dalen (Terry) left us — which he 100% should have, so don’t take that the wrong way — at the end of May, we were kind of stuck in a bind recruiting-wise, and things weren’t coming easy. And then to be able to pull Courtney Ramey and Cedric Henderson (Jr.) out of the transfer portal, I’m really thankful for those guys.”
Lloyd singled out Ramey, saying the stats don’t tell the whole story. The Texas import hit dagger 3s both in the Wildcats’ win over USC this past Thursday and Saturday.
Ramey finished with 11 points on 3-of-5 shooting from deep.
When Arizona went into its offensive slump, Ramey was a part of it.
From Dec. 31 through Jan. 14 — when the Wildcats went 3-2 — he shot 28% from the field and 30% from 3.
In the Wildcats’ last two games, Ramey has made nine of his 16 shots (56%) and eight of his 15 triples (53%).
UCLA’s Tyger Campbell tied the game at 26-all with a triple on the first bucket for either side in the second half.
A possession later, Ballo blocked UCLA’s Jaime Jaquez Jr. in the paint with 18 to play, igniting the break for Arizona. Ramey picked up the loose ball at three-quarters court and stepped into a deep 3 from the wing.
He buried it.
And Arizona was off and running.
Arizona got a stop, then Kerr Kriisa knocked in another triple from almost the same spot.
Arizona got another stop and Ramey found Tubelis on a high pick-and-roll action for the hoop and the foul.
Jaquez forced a turnover on an attempted entry to Ballo, then hit a much-needed triple from the corner to stop the bleeding. Tubelis got a pair of layups back-to-back and suddenly the Wildcats were up by 10.
Following a Ballo alley-oop, Arizona had a 56-44 lead with 2:07 to play.
Then the Bruins found life. They created four consecutive turnovers and capitalized with an 8-0 run, eventually pulling within four points with 26 seconds to go.
“It shows you what you’re capable of when you play with your heart and intestinal fortitude,” said UCLA’s Mick Cronin after the game. “If you only play with your mind, your mind is on your missed shots instead of your effort.”
But the hole was too big to completely dig out of. UCLA shot just 31% and went 4-for-20 on its triples. Campbell and Jaquez combined for 25 points, but they shot a combined 10-for-35.
“We didn’t want to give their good players good shots, we wanted to make them take tough shots,” said Ramey.
Between limiting USC to 66 points on Thursday and then holding the Bruins to 52 — their lowest output since March 30, 2021 — Lloyd thought Arizona had one of its best defensive weekends.
“I just think the guy’s got a little more attentive. And I thought all along our team had real, real defensive potential,” Lloyd said. “I think you put the two games together, I think it was our best defense.”
On the other side, Cronin was not nearly as pleased.
“I still think our defense was really bad. I don’t think we played the way we play at UCLA,” the Bruin head coach said. “I think we were offensive-sensitive all day. I’m not impressed with our defense at all today. I couldn’t care less what the final score was, I didn’t think we played hard until the game was over.”
UCLA remains atop the Pac-12 despite the loss, but it looked evident this series will carry title implications going forward. The two sides will meet for the last time on the final day of the regular season — March 4 at Pauley Pavilion.
“I would say it’s a big, big rivalry and sadly there’s not much left of it anymore because they’re leaving soon,” Kriisa said. “So we’re trying to get every piece of them that we can get.”