Arizona ousted from Pac-12 tourney by UCLA

LAS VEGAS — It became more difficult by the

month, but UCLA finished off its three-peat against Arizona in the

Pac-12 tournament semifinals Friday.

Three victories

in the season series, three leading men.

Freshman

swingman Jordan Adams suffered a fractured right fifth metatarsal on the

final play of the game, but he made the difference in the Bruins’ 66-64

victory over the Wildcats at the MGM Grand Arena. Adams scored 17 of

his game-high 24 points in the final nine minutes to send No. 21 UCLA

into the tournament title game against Oregon on Saturday

night.

Adams helped UCLA rally from an 11-point

deficit in the final 10:20, and Kyle Anderson’s follow shot with 22.1

seconds was the last basket of the game. Arizona’s Solomon Hill then

faked Adams into the air — Adams landed awkwardly when he came down,

suffering the injury – but missed a 17-footer from the key with three

seconds left, and time expired before either team could gain

possession.

“There was so much mental toughness to be

able to come back against a great team and a team that’s going to be

highly seeded and has a chance,” UCLA coach Ben Howland said. “I mean,

Arizona played really well today. Hat’s off to them. They’re a

great team.

“You know, when we get into close games,

we’ve got a great shot at winning close games. Our guys are

just so mentally tough, and they find a way. I thought Jordan Adams was

fantastic during that run when he came back and was in the zone, and his

teammates were finding him.”

UCLA (25-8) has beaten

Arizona (25-7) by nine, five and two points this season, and both long

ago secured spots in the NCAA tournament. Arizona has been projected as a

possible No. 4-5 seed, with UCLA considered a No.

5-6.

Shabazz Muhammad was the biggest factor in the

first meeting, scoring 23 points in the Bruins’ 83-74 victory in Tucson

on Jan. 24, while Larry Drew II had 14 points and nine assists while

containing Wildcats point guard Mark Lyons in a 74-69 victory in Los

Angeles. On Friday night it was Adams, although UCLA must do without him

going forward.

“Jordan Adams is a great player,”

Hill said. “He got snubbed from the (Pac-12) all-freshman team. Once he

got going, he got to the free-throw line. Then, once you get a guy in

rhythm, it is really hard to stop him, especially an explosive

scorer.”

Arizona made some matchup adjustments

Friday, and it seemed to slow UCLA, which won despite shooting 39.3

percent from the field and being outrebounded 37-31. The Wildcats put

off-guard Nick Johnson on Bruins point guard Drew, and it made a

difference. Drew had difficulty penetrating and dishing, his M.O., and

missed all five field-goal attempts in 37 minutes while getting four

assists and two turnovers.

An equal-opportunity

defender, Johnson held down Arizona State forward Jonathan Gilling in

the final regular-season game and Colorado off-guard Spencer Dinwiddie

in the Pac-12 quarterfinals.

Hill hounded Muhammad in

and around screens, once breaking through a double-pick on the right

side to alter a Muhammad shot, and limited him to 11 points. That put

Lyons on Adams, and that worked until Adams found his groove 30 minutes

in.

“We went into this game determined not to let

Larry Drew beat us the way he beat us in the first and second game,”

Arizona coach Sean Miller said. “And, really, mission accomplished. Not

that he didn’t play an excellent game, but they went about it a

different way. Jordan Adams really stepped up, and they made big plays.

That’s what March is about, making big plays. By the way, we made quite a

few of them.”

Lyons’ driving layup past Drew gave

Arizona a 49-38 lead, an advantage built on strong play by freshmen

Brandon Ashley, Grant Jerrett and Kaleb Tarczewski. Ashley had 15

points, his third-highest total of the season, Jerrett had eight points

and Tarczewksi had six points and 13 rebounds, tying his season

high.

Adams carried the load for UCLA from there. He

made four free throws, two layups, two short jumpers and a 3-pointer

from the right wing as the Bruins gradually got back in the game.

Johnson (10 points, five assists) made a 3-pointer from the left wing as

the shot clock wound down, but Adams’ 3-pointer and his second set of

free throws after a technical foul on Miller tied it at 56 with 4:37

left. Miller was called for a technical after officials called Lyons for

traveling, although replays seemed to indicate a defensive player

touched the ball, which should have rendered the call

unnecessary.

“The reason I got a technical foul is

because I said, ‘He touched the ball.’ He touched the ball. When you

show the replay here on ESPN in a few seconds, he (defender) touched the

ball. He touched the ball. He touched the ball. He touched the ball.

That’s a hard one now when you work August, September, October,

November, December, January, February, and here we are,” Miller

said.

There were three ties and three lead changes

the rest of the way. Hill’s cross-court pass set up Jerrett’s tying

3-pointer with 54.6 seconds left, and UCLA ran down most of the clock

before Anderson followed Adams’ missed 3-point attempt for the final

hoop.

The NCAA tournament brackets will be announced

Sunday, but do not tell Hill that the game was merely a tuneup for the

tournament. It had special significance to him, one of UA’s three senior

starters.

“It mattered. It mattered more than

anything. You are talking about a chance to get hats and T-shirts and

celebrate and cut down some nets. We didn’t get a chance to cut down the

nets in the regular season, so this would have been another chance,”

said Hill, who won the league tournament in 2011 and played in the title

game last year.

“This could have been the difference

between a seed or two, and that can be a very big difference when you

are trying to make a long run in the tournament. Instead of a five seed,

we probably could have been a three seed if we win this tournament.

It’s funny that way.

“Congratulations to UCLA. They

are a great team.”