Despite winning 12 of last 14 games, UCLA fails to crack top-25 after defeating No. 10 Arizona.
By Michael Brown,
Sentinel Sports Writer
In perhaps their most complete game of the season, the UCLA Bruins put the clamps on No. 10 Arizona’s offense on its way to a dominating, 71-49, victory Saturday at Pauley Pavilion.
Entering the game, the Bruins (21-8, 12-4) trailed Arizona (23-6, 12-4) in the Pac-10 standings by a game, but they tied the Wildcats for first largely behind the play of sophomore forward Reeves Nelson.
Nelson led the Bruins attack by scoring a career-high 27 points and collecting 16 rebounds. Not only was Nelson effective on the offensive side of the floor, but he hassled Arizona forward and likely Pac-10 Player of The Year, Derrick Williams.
Williams finished with 15 points and seven rebounds, but found life difficult as a combination of UCLA big men bodied him up. UCLA starting center Anthony Stover only scored a point, but chipped in defensively with four blocks.
The game was close throughout the first half as Williams and teammate Kyle Fogg (10 points) held the Bruins at bay. But UCLA finished the first half on an 11-2 run for a 40-30 lead.
The Bruins carried the momentum into the second half by jumping out to an 11-point run for a 51-30 lead. Arizona made a run a few minutes after to bring the game within single digits, but UCLA freshman center Joshua Smith was huge in thwarting their efforts.
Smith tipped-in a Lazeric Jones missed three-point shot for two of his 17 points off the bench.
UCLA’s stout defense limited Arizona to their fewest points this season, and they held the Wildcats to 32 percent shooting from the field. Tyler Honeycutt played a major role on both ends of the floor by scoring 15 points and adding three blocks.
Played before the biggest crowd (nearly 12,000 people) this season for a UCLA home game, the win marks the final game the Bruins will play in Pauley Pavilion before it re-opens after renovations are complete. In the meantime, The Bruins will play at several arenas around the L.A. area next season.
Despite not being ranked in the AP or Coaches Polls, the Bruins are in prime position to win the Pac-10 regular season title. UCLA visit’s the Washington schools this weekend, both of which have struggled lately.
Not only do the Bruins have to handle their business, they need one of the Oregon schools to pull an upset at Arizona. Either way, Coach Ben Howland’s squad has showed marked improvement over the year and will be a formidable foe come tournament time. The rankings only matter as it pertains to seeding.
The higher the seed, the more likely it is that UCLA won’t have to travel thousands of miles away from the west coast and play in one of the eastern brackets.
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