UCLA has its sights set on a Pac-12 championship in its first season under coach Steve Alford, and its current hot stretch has made the race much more interesting.
The 23rd-ranked Bruins seek a fifth straight victory Saturday while earning a fifth consecutive win over host Stanford, which has won four of five.
Arizona won its first eight in league play as part of a 21-0 start, but it has gone just 3-2 over its last five while UCLA (21-5, 10-3) has pulled within one game of the Pac-12 leader.
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The Bruins have won seven of eight, beginning with a 91-74 victory over Stanford on Jan. 23. Jordan Adams scored a game-high 28 points as they kept rolling with Wednesday’s 86-66 win over California.
”That’s where our eyes are and that’s where our goal is – to get this league championship,” said forward Travis Wear, who added 13 points. ”We’re going to try to win every game from here on out and see what happens in the end.”
UCLA won’t get another chance to face the Wildcats, who won the season’s only meeting 79-75 on Jan. 9. Alford is focusing more on what his team can control, as Wednesday’s contest began a stretch of four of six on the road to end the regular season.
Arizona visits Colorado later Saturday night.
”I thought this was as well as we’ve played in a while,” Alford said. ”We want to stay in the conference race. We had a chance to put another team two games behind us with five left and we had a chance to get another road win.”
The Bruins have won each contest during their winning streak by double digits and rank among the nation’s top 10 scoring teams at 83.2 points per game. They lead the Pac-12 in 3-point shooting at 40.9 percent and have hit at a 50.7 percent clip during their streak.
”We’ve been playing some good basketball as of late,” Wear said. ”This is the perfect time to be doing it so we can be really dangerous heading into the late season."
Sophomore Tony Parker scored a career-high 22 points off the bench and Adams added 19 in the first meeting with the Cardinal. Kyle Anderson finished with 13 points and 10 assists in that contest, and he’s on pace to make UCLA history.
Anderson is averaging 15.3 points, is tied for fourth in the conference in rebounding at 8.7 per game and leads the Pac-12 in assists with 6.8 per contest. He can become the first Bruins player to average at least 10-5-5 since Bill Walton in 1973-74.
He’ll seek another solid performance against a Stanford team looking for a third straight victory after beating Southern California 80-59 on Thursday. The Cardinal (17-8, 8-5) overcame a poor shooting performance in the first half with a solid defensive effort.
Leading scorer Chasson Randle scored a game-high 18 points despite hitting 4 of 15 from the field, making all 10 free-throw attempts.
"We didn’t play well offensively as far as shooting well, but we found a way. It was through our defense, it was through our effort," coach Johnny Dawkins said. "I think that’s something that will give us a lot of confidence going down the stretch."
Josh Huestis, who had a double-double in the first meeting with UCLA, finished with 11 points and 18 rebounds. His three blocks made him Stanford’s all-time leader in that category.
UCLA has won 13 of the last 15 meetings and the last four by at least eight points.