Arizona Basketball

Arizona faces another physical challenge against UCLA’s double screens

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Date: Today
Time: 6 p.m. (Tucson time)
Location: MGM Grand Garden Arena (13,000)
Radio: IMG College/Wildcat Radio Network (Brian Jeffries/Matt Muehlebach)
TV: Pac-12 Networks (Ted Robinson/Bill Walton/Yogi Roth/Ashley Adamson)


Sean Miller

Sean Miller


UCLA used its double-screen to perfection against Arizona’s man-to-man defense in the last meeting won by UCLA 74-69 on March 2. The Bruins’ perimeter players moved off the ball from one side of the court to another past two screens on each side of the lane. That freed UCLA’s shooters for uncontested shots. The Bruins connected on jumpers when they effectively used ball screens and ball movement. They shot 41.2 percent from three-point range. UCLA reserve forward David Wear made two pivotal three-pointers in the second half because of the effective double screens. Arizona showed its most active perimeter defense of the season against Colorado on Thursday, limiting the Buffaloes’ looks from three-point range. The Buffaloes attempted only 12 three-pointers, making five, after trying only two by halftime. Colorado’s limited attempts were the story of the game, especially with Colorado lacking an inside game with Josh Scott hampered by foul problems and backup center Shane Harris-Tunks out with a concussion. Arizona must be more aggressive tonight against UCLA because of the Bruins’ double screens. “Everybody on our side of the fence is eager and knows that it’s going to be a really, really hard fought game,” UA coach Sean Miller said. “Maybe even a harder fought game than the one we played tonight (against Colorado).”


Larry Drew II

Larry Drew II


Miller once again praised UCLA point guard Larry Drew II, whose ball-handling skill sets are similar to what Miller showed when he played at Pittsburgh. The most significant difference is Miller led the Big East in free-throw percentage in 1991 (92.7 percent) and 1992 (92.3). Drew is shooting only 59.1 percent from the free-throw line, but he has only 44 attempts. The good news about that: Drew distributes. The bad news: He does not attack the basket and draw fouls like most point guards. Drew is most impressive setting up his younger teammates. The cliche “coach on the floor” applies here especially with UCLA’s freshman talent, although star Shabazz Muhammad has questioned that authority this season with his body language. “Larry Drew has been a huge reason that we’ve lost both games (to UCLA this season),” Miller said. “He has scored and also gotten his teammates easy baskets. I’m pretty sure we’re not the only team that feels that way. But we have to be able to contain him. We have to be able to make sure that he doesn’t control the game at the end of the clock, at the end of the game.” Drew scored a career-high 20 points against ASU, so he can hurt a team with his shooting. Speaking of hurt, UCLA coach Ben Howland said Drew did not come to the interview room after the Bruins beat the Sun Devils 80-75 because he was icing a sore Achilles’ heel. Drew should be ready to go against Arizona.



Shabazz Muhammad, left, and Nick Johnson will play each other in Vegas for the first time since their memorable clash in 2011 while in high school (YouTube)

Shabazz Muhammad, left, and Nick Johnson will play each other in Vegas for the first time since their memorable clash in 2011 while in high school (YouTube)







Nick Johnson

Nick Johnson


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.


Grant Jerrett

Grant Jerrett


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.”


Jordan Adams

Jordan Adams


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.

RELATED LINKS
— 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

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