Reasons to have optimism after UCLA's loss to No. 12 Arizona

UCLA was winning against No. 12 Arizona on the road for the majority of the game before losing by single digits. Here are some reasons to be optimistic moving forward.

Jan 20, 2024; Tucson, Arizona, USA; Arizona Wildcats guard Pelle Larsson (3) battles for position
Jan 20, 2024; Tucson, Arizona, USA; Arizona Wildcats guard Pelle Larsson (3) battles for position / Zachary BonDurant-USA TODAY Sports
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UCLA vs. Arizona. 77. 511. Final. 71. 518

Let's take a look at reasons why UCLA basketball fans should have some sense of optimism moving forward.

1. Fight and Resilience: Despite losing a 19-point lead, the Bruins battled back and kept it close against a top-15 team on the road. This team has not given up on the season and even when they lost the lead late in the second half, their hustle to get offensive rebounds and their defensive intensity is a good sign moving forward.

2. Defense remains strong: UCLA held Arizona to 77 points, which is impressive as the Wildcats have put up 98 on Wisconsin, 87 on Alabama, 97 on Colorado, and 92 on Utah this season. Their defensive consistency throughout the season is one of their biggest strengths and they held Arizona to only 23.1% three-point shooting and held the Wildcats at home to only 28 first-half points.

3. Underclassmen shine: True Freshman Sebastian Mack had 21 points, five rebounds, and four assists, and other underclassmen contributed like Jan Vide who had six points and two rebounds in only five minutes of playing time, and Sophomores Will McClendon, Adem Bona, and Dylan Andrews made key contributions. The emergence of young talent as the season progresses bodes well for the rest of the upcoming season.

4. Learning from adversity: As the old saying goes, "You need to learn from your losses before you win a meaningful game" This can be true here before the Bruins get a top-50 net-ranked opponent victory this season. Losses against tough, top-tier, ranked opponents can help a young team grow and provide learning opportunities moving forward in conference play. Coach Cronin is known for his defensive adjustments, and he can in film sessions teach his players what adjustments they need to make moving forward and this loss could lead to further defensive refinement.

5. Remaining schedule: While challenging, the remaining schedule includes winnable games against USC which is currently in second-from-last place in the Pac-12 standings, Oregon State at home which is a team they already defeated, Oregon a team they only lost by five points on the road, and Stanford and Cal which are two teams that the Bruins can defeat. Winning these games can build momentum and confidence heading into February conference play.

6. Improvement from beyond the arc and the free throw line: If UCLA can continue to shot better from three point range like they did against Arizona, they Bruin teams should win four of their next five games. Excluding the late three point attempts, UCLA shot well from beyond the arc making nine three pointers with five different Bruins make a three and Mack and Stefanovic make three each. UCLA also shot well at the free throw line making 12 of 14 attempts with Bona and Stefanovic
making all of their attempts against Arizona.

Remember, this is just one game in a long season. While disappointing, it shouldn't erase the progress the Bruins have made. UCLA fans can focus on the positives, the team's strengths, and their potential to grow and increase their seeding for the Pac-12 tournament.

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