UCLA falls to Arizona in the Pac-12 title game, hurting chances of an NCAA No. 1 seed

UCLA guard Jaime Jaquez Jr. (24) drives the ball against Arizona forward Azuolas Tubelis.

UCLA’s Jaime Jaquez Jr. handles the ball during the Pac-12 championship game against Arizona’s Azuolas Tubelis (10). Jaquez had 13 points but shot five for 18 from the field in the Bruins’ 61-59 loss. (Pursuit Stevens/Associated Press)

UCLA didn’t come here just to try it.

The Bruins, their best defender at home, their best big man watching in a tracksuit, were undeterred Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena while being badly undermanned in a heavyweight title fight.

You just finally ran out of counterattacks in the Pac-12 Tournament Championship.

A wild game ended in a mad scramble. Arizona’s Azuolas Tubelis pushed his team to a two-point lead by taking the first of two free throws with 5.8 seconds left before missing the second.

UCLA’s Jaime Jaquez Jr. grabbed the rebound and frantically dribbled down before passing on the wing to freshman guard Dylan Andrews. Rising for a three-pointer that bounced off the side of the rim on the buzzer, Andrews preserved the second-seeded Wildcats’ 61-59 win over the top-seeded Bruins, whose 12-game winning streak was ending.

“Wide open to win the game,” said UCLA coach Mick Cronin afterwards. “It is what it is.”

UCLA guard Amari Bailey controls the ball under pressure from Arizona forward Azuolas Tubelis and guard Kerr Kriisa.

UCLA’s Amari Bailey controls the ball under pressure from Arizona’s Azuolas Tubelis, second from right, and Kerr Kriisa (25) on Saturday night. (Pursuit Stevens/Associated Press)

The eighth-ranked Arizona players lingered to celebrate their second straight title game triumph over UCLA (29-5) while the No. 2 Bruins pondered where they might be seeded in the NCAA tournament.

Massively undermanned themselves, the Bruins had every opportunity to pull this off.

Bruins point guard Tyger Campbell, an 84.9 percent free-throw taker who had been that strong all week, had a chance to level the score with 6.8 seconds left, missing the second of two free throws, the ball rolled around the edge before coming down. Cronin said Campbell was unnecessarily angry with himself afterwards.

“I would jeopardize my career,” Cronin said, “with Tyger on the line.”

Another opportunity had been missed for UCLA after Jaquez smashed the ball away from Tubelis 1:10 for a steal and gave the Bruins a one-point lead. But after the Bruins called a time-out, Jaquez missed a short jump.

“I had a lot of great looks,” said Jaquez, who scored 13 in the five-for-18 shooting, “I just missed.”

The Wildcats missed their next shot, but Tubelis snagged an offensive rebound and found Courtney Ramey for a three-pointer that gave Arizona a 60-58 lead with 18 seconds left. Cronin suggested that Ramey had gone for Will McClendon before he was shot, one of two calls that irritated Cronin.

The other call came in the first half when Jaquez passed to a slashing Amari Bailey who threw a vicious, one-handed dunk over Arizona’s Pelle Larsson. The whistle sounded. Bruins fans roared, guessing it was a three-point game chance.

Arizona guard Courtney Ramey, center, celebrates with teammates after winning the Pac-12 tournament.

Arizona guard Courtney Ramey, center, celebrates with teammates after winning the Pac-12 tournament. (Pursuit Stevens/Associated Press)

nope The officer waved his arm to indicate Bailey had pushed off. Offensive foul. Cronin and the Bruins fans were furious.

“An offensive foul called for a guy who had the best dunk of the season,” Cronin said in disbelief.

Somehow it got worse. On the Wildcats’ next possession, Larsson threw down his own one-handed dunk, causing an Arizona fan seated on the sidelines to yell, “This is how you do it!”

Battered but not broken, the Bruins continued to fight back. They took a nine-point lead early in the second half before it looked like they were running out of magic. Shots stopped ringing. Fouls piled up.

While newcomer center Adem Bona looked on after injuring his left shoulder on Friday, the Bruins ran out of big men in the final minutes. Backup Mac Etienne fouled with 9:35 to go and Kenneth Nwuba followed with four minutes to go.

Tubelis had 19 for the Wildcats (28-6) and Bailey had 19 to lead the Bruins.

This should be an opportunity to resolve the debates, answer the questions and remove any remaining doubts.

These teams had met twice this season and had won once each. The respective fan communities had spoken out in favor of superiority. UCLA was the tougher, more complete team. Arizona possessed the larger front line and a more powerful offensive.

The Bruins had won the Pac-12 title in a four-game breakaway, beating the Wildcats just last week. But any Bruins’ reasonable calculus had changed significantly in the past week.

Junior guard Jaylen Clark was absent with a lower leg injury. Bona, a shot-blocking threat, was turned into a cheerleader by shoulder pain that isn’t expected to stop him last Saturday.

The Bruins withstood it all as part of a rousing Pac-12 tournament run that was Disney stuff, retreating from Colorado before blitzing Oregon from behind a Campbell barrage. But this challenge was on a different level than going from climbing the Santa Monica Mountains to Mount Everest.

UCLA made it most of the way but couldn’t make it to the top.

This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

https://sports.yahoo.com/ucla-falls-arizona-pac-12-061302908.html?src=rss UCLA falls to Arizona in the Pac-12 title game, hurting chances of an NCAA No. 1 seed


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