Arizona Basketball

Top three storylines: UCLA Bruins vs. Arizona Wildcats



Arizona’s Stanley Johnson and his teammates will try to protect the paint as will UCLA (YouTube video screen shot)

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PP: Productivity Points (Points, assists, rebounds, steals, blocked shots, FGs made, FTs made added together and then subtracted by missed FGs, missed FTs, personal fouls and turnovers)
MIN: Minutes played overall
PR: Productivity rating per minute played (Productivity points divided by minutes played)

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NO. 5 ARIZONA (29-3) VS. UCLA (20-12)
Tip Time: 6:10 p.m. MST
TV: Pac-12 Networks (Robinson/Walton/Johnson)
Radio: Arizona IMG Sports Network (Jeffries/Hansen)
National Radio: Westwood One (Larrivee/Montgomery)
Overall: Arizona trails, 39-53
At Neutral Sites: Arizona trails, 2-6
Current Streak: Arizona won 1
Last Meeting: Arizona won, 57-47, on Feb. 21, 2015
Sean Miller vs. UCLA: 7-8

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Top three storylines for tonight’s game:

1. Kevon Looney’s impact.

UCLA freshman forward Kevin Looney has been cleared to play tonight. He will be outfitted with a protective mask. UCLA fans feared he could be lost because of a concussion, which would expose the Bruins’ lack of depth will be exposed even more.

Looney averaged 12.3 points and 9.5 rebounds per game before taking an elbow to the face 10 minutes into Thursday’s win over USC.

Looney, rated by draft experts as a lottery pick, had the Bruins’ only offensive rebound against Arizona — the nation’s best defensive rebounding team — in a 57-47 loss at the McKale Center last month.


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If Looney isn’t ready, the team will likely start freshman Gyorgy Goloman. The 6-foot-10 reserve averages 1.5 points and 1.5 rebounds in 10.9 minutes per game, but had six points, seven rebounds and three assists in 28 minutes against the Trojans.

UCLA missed 26 shots in the first game, which means their offensive rebounding percentage in the game was only .038. Arizona leads the nation with a defensive rebounding percentage of 77.5, which means opponents have corralled only 22.5 percent of their misses.

2. Focus on the bench.

Arizona is now in the postseason, which means Sean Miller will likely go to his starters more to get the most potential out of his rotation in crunch time.

The Wildcats’ bench outscored Cal’s reserves 16-11 on Thursday after dominating that phase of the game in the previous two meetings. Arizona’s reserves outscored the Golden Bears’ bench 24-0 in the first meeting and 34-13 in the second.

Arizona’s reserves played more minutes — 65 to 41 — than Cal’s bench. That means Miller is still going to the bench but the execution came mostly from his bread-and=butter players. Gabe York is part of that six-player group Miller will rely on the most from now until potentially Indianapolis.

“It’s not different for me if I’m starting or if I’m coming off the bench,” York said after Thursday’s game. “I’m going to come out and play basketball how I know how to. That’s to score the ball and defend at high level and go out and get defensive rebounds and after that, work my butt off to get open shots.

“When I get those open shots I have to knock them down.”

Parker Jackson-Cartwright, Dusan Ristic and Elliott Pitts are important elements to Miller’s rotation inasmuch as they can provide relief for the six-player core and contribute when necessary.

“We feel like we’re a very important piece,” Jackson-Cartwright said of the reserves. “We just have to keep the flow of the game going. Whether our minutes die down, however long we’re out there, we have to make a difference.

3. Making the paint red and blue.

UCLA guard Bryce Alford believes the game will be won or lost in the lane, not beyond the three-point line.

“We have to pack it in,” Alford said. “We have to try to make them take tough shots. We must try to control the paint. When they did get into the paint (in the 57-47 loss to Arizona on Feb. 21), our bigs got in foul trouble. If we can keep them out of the paint it will help us a lot.”

Looney, Tony Parker and Chris Welsh — three of UCLA’s most reliant interior players — all fouled out at McKale.

Look for York, T.J. McConnell, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Stanley Johnson to penetrate the paint and force the issue against UCLA, which does not have the depth to hold up against foul trouble.

Alford and perimeter mate Isaac Hamilton will attempt to loosen the paint on the offensive end with perimeter jumpers. Norman Powell play similar to Hollis-Jefferson and Johnson and to try to penetrate.

One thing is certain for UCLA, especially if it was to emerge victorious: The shots by Alford must be limited. He tried only six against USC on Thursday, which allowed Hamilton, Powell and Parker more looks. That made the Bruins more diverse in their attack.

Alford is second on the UCLA roster behind Powell in field-goal attempts. He’s tried 383 compared to Powell’s 412.

In UCLA’s four-game winning streak since losing at Arizona, Alford has attempted only 34 shots (making 15) compared to Powell’s 63 attempts (33 made). It’s obvious that UCLA’s flow is much better when Alford is more selective with his shots.


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[table “” not found /] publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He also has published articles for Bleacher Report and Lindy’s College Sports.

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