Arizona Basketball

Arizona Wildcats match program’s best start with victory over UCLA


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Arizona persevered through Aaron Gordon’s foul problems and the Wildcats’ turnover, free-throw shooting and rebounding deficiencies to defeat rival UCLA 79-75 at Pauley Pavilion tonight.

“We don’t break,” Arizona coach Sean Miller told ESPN after the game. “It’s not always pretty. We have a resiliency about us that if things don’t go our way, we will fight back.”

A win’s a win, especially when it comes against the Bruins for Arizona, which has equaled its best start in school history with a 16-0 record. The Wildcats have the opportunity break the mark set by the 1931-32 team on Sunday at USC.

The top-ranked Wildcats (3-0 in the Pac-12) survived despite blowing a 68-55 lead with 6:18 left in the game. UCLA, taking advantage of Arizona’s turnovers and missed free-throw attempts, went on a 15-1 run to take a 70-69 lead with 1:44 remaining. The usually sparse Pauley Pavilion was jam-packed with boisterous fans and famous observers such as Phil Jackson, John Lithgow and Doc Rivers.

Instead of completely unraveling, Arizona answered the UCLA challenge by making five of six free-throw attempts, including two each by Gordon (44.9-percent free-throw shooter) and point guard T.J. McConnell (who was shooting 64 percent) to take a 76-70 lead with 34 seconds left.

After Nick Johnson made one of two free-throw attempts, UCLA freshman guard Zach LaVine nailed a three-pointer to cut the lead to 77-75 with 17 seconds left. Gabe York sealed the victory with two free throws with 12 seconds left.

Arizona ended the game with four players with four fouls — Gordon, McConnell, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Brandon Ashley.

Johnson finished with 22 points to lead Arizona after he scored 24 against Washington last Saturday. Kaleb Tarczewski had a career-best 16 points and pulled down eight rebounds.

UCLA entered the game shooting 52 percent from the field and was limited to only 40 percent. They were held to 12 points below their average of 87.1 points per game.

The Wildcats also have tied the most consecutive wins of a No. 1 team in the program’s history. They are 7-0 since being ranked No. 1 on Dec. 9. The 2002-03 team won seven consecutive games as the top-ranked team before getting upset by a 9-19 UCLA team in the quarterfinals of the Pac-10 tournament.

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ARIZONA BEST STARTS
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ARIZONA AS NO. 1 TEAM
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WILDABOUTAZCATS.net publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He also writes articles for Bleacher Report, Lindy’s College Sports and TucsonCitizen.com.

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