UCLA Basketball: Bruins get wild against the ‘Cats in win over Arizona

TUCSON, AZ - FEBRUARY 8: Dylan Smith
TUCSON, AZ - FEBRUARY 8: Dylan Smith /

The UCLA basketball team is back in the Pac-12 title hunt as they took down conference-leading #13 Arizona in Tucson and it was not close.

Not a lot of people predicted the beat down the UCLA basketball team would give Arizona, but here we are. The Bruins went into Tucson and smacked the Cat with a combination of aggression and consistency which led to an 82-74 victory.

Before tipoff, ESPN gave the Bruins a 16.8% chance of winning the game and most would agree. The Bruins have had an up and down season that has had flashes of greatness (Jaylen Hand’s under the leg assist of the year) and down right head-scratching moments (who loses against Oregon State? UCLA, thats who.).


Tonight, UCLA had their best game of the season and it was beautiful. Plagued with controversy, issues with depth and inconsistency, these Bruins did not just get a quality win, but having a team as young as the Bruins waltz into McKale Center (a place where the Wildcats are 79-3 in the last five years, with two of those losses coming against UCLA – thanks for that bit of info, Godfather) and completely dominate the veteran-laden Arizona team is unfathomable. Yet it happened.

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The Bruins had a ton of energy from the start and jumped out to a quick 10-3 lead. Within the first five minutes, Arizona cold only hit one of their first nine field goals. They managed to get back in the game and eventually took the lead, but things changed right before the break. Freshman Jaylen Hands single-handedly gave the Bruins a shot in the arm as he hit three consecutive three-pointers with the final one coming right up against the buzzer. UCLA led by time at that point, 44-34.

The second half was more of the same as the Bruins found a way to disrupt Arizona’s flow on offense and defense. UCLA had clogged the middle, contested shots and was just short of relentless in battling for loose balls. It was one of the best defensive performances of the season for UCLA who limited Arizona to 43.9% shooting.

This was as complete of a game as the Bruins have played all season long. Thomas Welsh finished with 11 points and 12 rebounds for his 14th double-double of the season. Aaron Holiday had 17 points and 8 assists. Kris Wilkes had 14 points of his own. Even Gyorgy Goloman had an impressive showing with a career-high 16 points.

Things looked bleak for UCLA after losing three-games in a row a few weeks ago, but with this win, and USC blowing a lead against Arizona State tonight, the Bruins have tied for second-place with the Trojans in the Pac-12, which they would have the advantage as UCLA beat USC last week at Pauley Pavilion.

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So just like that, UCLA is back. There is definitely a battle going down in the west and should result in a tight finish as we head into the end of the season. Who would thought?