Another chapter will be added to the Nick Johnson-Shabazz Muhammad rivalry tonight. The last time these players met in Las Vegas was on Jan. 23, 2011, when Johnson’s Henderson (Nev.) Findlay Prep team defeated Muhammad’s Las Vegas Bishop Gorman team 89-86 in overtime at the Cox Pavilion adjacent to the Thomas & Mack Arena. Muhammad had 32 points in that game, 12 in overtime after Johnson fouled out. Johnson, who defended Muhammad most of that game, scored a season-low 10 points because he concentrated on stopping the high school All-American. Muhammad is 2-0 against Johnson in the UCLA-Arizona rivalry. Johnson has his last chance — unless the teams meet again in the NCAA tournament — to get at least one victory against Muhammad at this level. Howland has let it be known that Muhammad will enter the NBA draft in June. “I can’t wait, personally,” Johnson said about facing Muhammad and UCLA. “It will definitely be a big challenge. I look forward to it.” Muhammad told the Los Angeles Times before playing in the Pac-12 Tournament that he is “definitely looking forward to putting on a show in Las Vegas.” If the Arizona-UCLA game tonight is anything like that Findlay-Bishop Gorman clash two years ago, it will be one of the best shows on The Strip tonight.
Arizona was swept by UCLA in the regular season, but the Wildcats showed some resolve in the second half at Pauley Pavilion two weeks ago. They cut a 13-point deficit in the second half to three points and had a chance to win before succumbing to the Bruins 74-69. The UA came away with an encouraging feeling with how they battled back and followed that with a productive week of practice — focusing on defense against screens — before beating ASU. Miller was especially pleased with the performance of freshman forward Grant Jerrett at UCLA. Jerrett had 14 points on 4-of-5 shooting (all from three-point range) and pulled down five rebounds. “After the UCLA game we all felt confident about how we played at the end,” Jerrett said after the UA’s win over Colorado Thursday. “Even though we lost, it was a bummer, but we showed we can compete.” Jerrett is 6-10 and 235 pounds, but he has mostly been utilized as a perimeter shooter by Miller. Kevin Parrom (41.1 percent) and Jerrett (39.7) are Arizona’s most reliable three-point shooters. I asked Jerrett if he expected to be this much of a three-point shooter in college. “I didn’t have a mindset what I was going to do the most coming in,” he said. “I kept shooting over the summer, leaning toward that part of my game, so I feel I can handle that role.”
UCLA freshman guard Jordan Adams impressively shut down ASU wing player Carrick Felix in the Bruins’ 80-75 win on Thursday, drawing the praise of UCLA coach Ben Howland. Felix, one of the better players in the Pac-12, scored only seven points (2 of 8 from the field) and grabbed just four rebounds in 34 minutes. “I thought Jordan Adams did a fantastic job on Felix today,” Howland said. “For Felix to only have seven points and four rebounds tells me that he was blocked out well and that he was defended well, because he is a great player that’s going to make a lot of money.” Adams leads UCLA with 71 steals. He will likely draw the defensive assignment on Solomon Hill, who struggled against Adams and the Bruins two weeks. Hill also had only seven points and four rebounds in 29 minutes. In the first meeting, won by UCLA 84-73, Hill played well with 13 points and 10 rebounds, but Adams has improved as the season has progressed.
— Arizona-UCLA: Three things to watch (Anthony Gimino, TucsonCitizen.com)
— Arizona holds off Colorado, moves on (Jack Magruder, FoxSportsArizona.com)
— UA-UCLA pregame notes: Win would boost Wildcats’ resume (Bruce Pascoe, Arizona Daily Star)
— Nick Johnson finding his groove again at the right time
Site publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner