Mar 15, 2014; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UCLA Bruins celebrates with the championship trophy after the championship game of the Pac-12 Conference college basketball tournament against the Arizona Wildcats at MGM Grand Garden Arena. The Bruins defeated the Wildcats 75-71. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

UCLA Wins The Pac-12 Tournament Championship, Kyle Anderson Named MVP

The UCLA Bruins are your 2014 Pac-12 Tournament Champions! The #2 Bruins 26-8, 12-6) beat the #1 Arizona Wildcats (30-4, 15-3), 75-71, booking their ticket for the NCAA tournament. This game could arguably be the best game in Pac-12 Tournament history as both UCLA and Arizona took this game down to the wire, giving Pac-12 fans one of the best contests they have ever seen.

That setting was just right for these two to meet at this time. UCLA is a team in transition, with first-year head coach Steve Alford, while the Wildcat head coach Sean Miller has gotten Arizona back to elite status. Back in January, the Wildcats beat the Bruins in Los Angeles, proving they were the best team in the west. What this win for UCLA signifies is that the Bruins are turning the tide and the title for best team in the Pac-12 is now a two team race.

As for the game, it did not disappoint, especially for Bruin fans. UCLA had gotten out to an early 14-3 lead. Depsite what they heard about Arizona’s defense, UCLA took it to the hole nearly every possession which flummoxed Arizona at times..

The Wildcats did not go down that easy, though. They had fought back and started 4-for-5 from three-point range. Gabe York went 3-for-4 from behind the arc and was the only Wildcat keeping Arizona in the game early on.

After an intense stretch in which UCLA and Arizona were trading shots like two heavyweight prizefighters, it was 26-18 midway through the first. The only thing that was effectively working for Arizona was getting it to their big center, Kaleb Tarczewski, who bull-rushed his way into the paint for 8 first half points.

UCLA was a bit more consistent as it was all about their big three. By halftime, Jordan Adams (10), Kyle Anderson (11) and Norman Powell (11) were in double-digits for the Bruins, combining for 13-for-20 shooting (65%).

At halftime, it was 43-40 in favor of the Bruin. It was the most points Arizona has allowed all year by halftime, but it was far from over.

The Wildcats took it to UCLA, controlling most of the second half, although both teams did not get more than four points when they did have the lead. Overall, Arizona had a very balanced game. If they were not busting shots from the three point line, they were taking it to the Bruins in the paint who had no answer for their big men. Aaron Gordon had 11 points and 8 rebounds while Tarczewski added 12 points 7 rebounds. As for three point shooting, they end with 9-of-22 for 40.9%.

Pac-12 Player of the Year, Nick Johnson, was a workhorse for Arizona. He had an incredible game with his 22 points, 5 rebounds and 3 blocks… but it was not enough.

Arizona did not know what to do with the potent Bruin offense. This was definitely the best offense Arizona had seen all year.

UCLA’s big three made sure of that. Adams, Anderson and Powell finished the game with 19, 21 and 15 points respectively.

But it all came down to mental toughness. With :43 seconds left and the game tied at 68, Anderson found an open Adams who drilled a three-pointer, putting the Bruins up, 71-68. Arizona followed up with three missed shots, taking it down to :05 seconds where an active David Wear grabbed the rebound. A foul on York sent Wear to the line where he made both double-bonus free throws, putting UCLA up 73-68.

Arizona countered with a Johnson 3-pointer, but followed that up with a foul on Powell who made it 75-71, hitting two free throws. That was all that was needed as UCLA captured the 2014 Pac-12 Tournament Championship.

As impressive as this win was, it highlights a very successful season for UCLA. In his first year, Steve Alford has proven that he can not only have success with the Bruins, but can have his team run with the best. Arizona was a very good opponent and they could have just as likely beaten UCLA, but right now, the Bruins proved that they have what to takes to dance in March. The played the best game of the season over one of the best teams in the country.

In addition, Anderson was named the Pac-12 Tournament MVP, making it clear that he is not only one of the best players in the Pac-12, but quite possibly the best point guard in the country.

This win not only makes UCLA the Pac-12 tourney champions, but also gives them the automatic bid for the Big Dance that starts next week. The Bruins were a shoe-in for the NCAA Tournament, but now it is set in stone. Go Bruins!




Mike W.R.

Twitter: @TheBigDisco

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