Gold: Arizona delivers last -- and lasting -- blow in title game win over UCLA
With 1 minute, 33 seconds left in the Pac-12 title game, UCLA senior point guard Tyger Campbell missed a wide-open 3-pointer that would’ve put the Bruins up 4.
Forty-three seconds later, with 50 seconds remaining, Jaime Jaquez missed a jumper that would’ve put the Bruins ahead by 1.
Then with 7 seconds left, Campbell missed a free throw that would’ve tied it.
Three moments, three shots that, if they fell, would’ve changed the entire game.
But they did not, and Arizona’s big one did: Courtney Ramey saved his only points for a 3-pointer with 18 seconds left to lift the Wildcats to the 61-59 Pac-12 Tournament championship game on Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
Courtney Ramey’s only bucket of the night was CLUTCH 💥@ArizonaMBB pic.twitter.com/MZRelemYXh
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) March 12, 2023
The Bruins had one last desperation heave on a last-second clean 3-point look by Dylan Andrews, but the freshman did not have the magic to rescue UCLA. And, it turns out, neither did the seniors.
And now Mick Cronin and Co. must wait to find out if a pair of untimely injuries and one untimely loss knocks them down to a No. 2 seed.
In some ways, this game felt like shades of the Pac-12 Football title game in Las Vegas last December.
You’ve got the conference’s clear-cut top team, the one that steamrolled through conference play with the league’s player of the year, also from Los Angeles, squaring up against the Pac-12’s defending champion. But instead of Utah running it back against USC in a win that cost the Pac-12 dearly, here’s Arizona running it back against UCLA in a win that may cost the Pac-12 dearly.
Not that it’s Arizona’s concern, but the Cats very well may have knocked down the Bruins a peg. Heck, forget their concern — Arizona fans would gladly cut off their nose to spite their face if that means UCLA fans felt an ounce of pain.
And speaking of pain, with Pac-12 defensive player of the year Jaylen Clark out for the year and freshman of the year Adem Bona out Saturday and potentially next week with a bum shoulder suffered in a semifinal win over Oregon, the Bruins are certainly hurting, even if they gave it their all on Saturday.
“We always play with toughness, but we had too many defensive mistakes and gave up too many offensive rebounds in the second half,” Cronin said. “But that’s how we do things. So it’s not a surprise. We compete. It’s five on five. We don’t accept that somebody was out so you’re supposed to lose. We don’t roll like that. I don’t teach these guys that about life. They’re going to have ups — I try to train my guys for life like my father taught me to. So they’re going to have things happen along the way.”
On Saturday, UCLA was down to fumes. It’s little surprise the Bruins ran out of gas when they did. The team’s two remaining low post players — little-used reserve Kenneth Nwuba and freshman Mac Etienne — both fouled out with more than 4 minutes left in the game. The Bruins were forced to put Jaquez on Azuolas Tubelis, Arizona’s fabulous inside scorer and Jaquez’s stiffest competition for Pac-12 Player of the Year, and had freshman guard Amari Bailey fronting 7-foot center Oumar Ballo. And, somehow, it worked. At least mostly.
Arizona’s twin terrors combined for 32 points and 22 rebounds, but the Bruins were in it until the very last shot.
“Wide open shot to win the game,” Cronin said. “It is what it is. Tyger’s beating himself up over a missed free throw, but that had nothing to do with some of our bad fouls and defensive breakdowns. Those are controllables. I’ll take Tyger at the line and put my career on the line with Tyger at the line. It’s a fact. Dylan had a great look, great pass by Jaime — I think you found him, right? Great pass by Jaime. In that situation I try to train the guys don’t try to do too much. Take what they give you. Instead of forcing it, you throw it, you got a wide open look to win the game. We’ll take it. It is what it is. Get some rest, get ready for the real tournament.”
Dylan Andrews’ final look that would have won the game. As good of a shot as you were ever going to get, just didn’t fall 🤷
UCLA falls to Arizona in the Pac-12 title game for the second year in a row, 61-59. pic.twitter.com/9FtJMVcP3g
— Jon Christon (@JonChristonDB) March 12, 2023
Arizona’s reward for beating UCLA for its second consecutive Pac-12 Tournament title to kick off the Tommy Lloyd tenure? A likely potential Elite 8 matchup with the likely top overall seed, Kansas.
While ESPN’s Joe Lunardi predicts that the Bruins will land with the No. 2 seed in the West, Arizona is tabbed for the 2-spot in the Midwest, with both teams starting tournament play in Sacramento.
After the game, Lloyd extolled his team’s ability to win in Las Vegas in drastically different ways than they did in last year’s title game, which they won, 84-76, on the strength of Bennedict Mathurin and Christian Koloko, and in the team’s quarterfinal win this year against Stanford, which they won, 95-84.
“I think it says that we have a group that’s built to play in this tournament we’re about to start in,” Lloyd said. “There’s no guarantees and you can’t make any assumptions, but I like our ability to win game to game.”
For now, Lloyd was just happy to eke out a 2-point win in a slugfest with the best regular-season team in the league, a game that Lloyd called, “knock-down drag-out.”
“Had a feeling it was going to be that way,” he said. “So much respect for the UCLA program. Obviously they’re going through a lot of injury stuff right now. But they’re resilient. I knew it was going to be like that. I wasn’t delusional and thought with a couple of their top guys out that it was going to be easy. And those two players, Tyger and Jaquez, they’re unbelievable. Mick does a great job of putting ’em in situations that they can take advantage of their abilities and their talent.”
Until they ran out of steam on Saturday, that is.
Tommy Lloyd. People’s champ.
In 2 seasons at Arizona:
Record: 61-10 (.859)
Conf Record: 32-8 (.800)
PAC-12 Reg Season Champ (2022)
2x PAC-12 Conf Tourney Champ (2022/2023)
— College Basketball Report (@CBKReport) March 12, 2023