LOS ANGELES – UCLA’s recent awakening turned out to be as relevant as Arizona point guard Josiah Turner’s suspension at the Pac-12 tournament Thursday.
Undersized Arizona simply bullied UCLA around the basket and buried the free throws that resulted, recovering from an unexpected upset loss at Arizona State five days ago for a 66-58 victory in the Pac-12 quarterfinals at the Staples Center.
The No. 4 seed Wildcats (22-10), who believe their loss to Arizona State turned the Pac-12 tournament into a win-or-else scenario as far as their NCAA tournament chances go, recovered their passion in time to end UCLA’s season, which was tarnished by a national magazine story two weeks ago that alleged a lack of discipline throughout the program.
“We got back to our roots tonight, defense and heart,” said Arizona senior guard Kyle Fogg, who had 13 points.”Last week against ASU we kind of strayed from that.”
“We really were a very tough-minded team,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said.
With 6-foot-6 senior Solomon Hill and 6-7 senior Jesse Perry taking the lead, the Wildcats were the aggressors from that start at the offensive end as well, setting up a Pac-12 semifinal game against No. 9 seed Oregon State (18-13), which upset No. 1 seed Washington, 86-84 Thursday.
The Bruins (19-14) had won three in a row, including a victory against regular-season champion Washington two weeks ago, but even with burly Josh Smith and the 6-foot-10 Wear twins inside had no answer for Hill and Perry, two of the three returning starters from Arizona’s 2011 Elite Eight team
Team leader Hill announced his presence with two 3-pointers in the first 4 1/2 minutes and finished with 25 points and 12 rebounds. Repeatedly using his quickness on drives for the wing or top of the key, Hill made 12 of 14 free throws. He wore out the Wears.
“I wanted our guys to know it was going to be a fight. I wanted the guys to ride behind me, and they did,” Hill said of his early play.
Perry rode with him. Perry had 16 points and 12 rebounds while making 12 of 13 free throws.
The stat sheet showed UCLA had a 36-19 edge in points in the paint, but someone forget to add the free throws that resulted from Arizona’s interior attack. The Wildcats made 31 of 36 free throws, tying a season high for makes. Hill was 10 of 10 from the foul line in the last 10 minutes.
Travis Wear (10 points) and Smith (seven points) fouled out; Smith, with what has becoming an alarming quickness. Fogg tricked Smith into jumping into him on one long-range field goal attempt, and Smith also was called for several reach-ins. He played nine minutes. David Wear had four fouls.
“Obviously, all night we had problems matching up with Hill and Perry because of their quickness,” UCLA coach Ben Howland said.
“I’ll go back and review the tape, but it’s not the officials’ fault that we lost this game. We’ve got to get our big guys to the line.”
Arizona had a 39-30 rebounding edge but committed 19 turnovers and shot 35 percent from the field, keeping the game close, and UCLA guards Lazeric Jones (17 points) and Jerime Anderson (14 points) fueled a second-half run that put the Bruins briefly in front.
Anderson’s breakaway layup capped a 10-0 run for a 46-45 UCLA lead, and Jones’ pass to David Wear for a layup pushed the Bruins back ahead, 48-47, after a Nick Johnson tip-in. Anderson’s 3 tied the score at 51 with 6:16 remaining before Arizona got back to pounding the ball inside.
The Wildcats scored 15 of their final 17 points on free throws, using a variation of the play they ran all night – drive hard to the hole, get fouled – before UCLA was forced to foul in the final minute.
Freshman Angelo Chol made Arizona’s only basket during taht span with 4:43 remaining off a feed from Johnson, who with Jordin Mayes split the point-guard position vacated with freshman Turner was suspended Wednesday, his second suspension and third disciplinary action of the season.
Chol was fouled and converted a three-point play for a 58-51 lead with 4:43 remaining, and UCLA never had possession with a chance to tie thereafter.
“We stuck with how we do,” said Fogg, Arizona’s leading scorer and a member of the Pac-12 all-defensive team.
“Solomon and Jesse are our two best players. They went out there tonight and dominated the game, especially Solomon. He really took over and made key plays down the stretch. He was able to take his man one on one, and they really didn’t have an answer for him.” Follow Jack Magruder on Twitter