No. 18 Arizona was outrebounded, outshot and outplayed by No. 10 UCLA in a 70-58 loss today at Pauley Pavilion, snapping the Wildcats’ string of 19 consecutive wins dating to last year’s six-game run to a WNIT title.
The loss is the Wildcats’ first in 303 days, since Oregon beat them 77-63 in the Pac-12 tournament on March 8. The second-ranked Ducks play at McKale Center next Sunday. No. 3 Oregon State first visits Friday night.
“This was not a game we were expected to win; (UCLA) is expected to win because they are the No. 10 team in the country at home,” coach Adia Barnes said on the postgame radio show on 1400 KTUC-AM.
“It’s still early but if we can go on the road and get splits and take care of home I think we’re in a good situation. I wish we would have played a little better. In the second half, they were nailing 3’s and we didn’t have an answer. … We have to lock in better. I had to call a timeout two minutes (into the second half) because I didn’t think we were locked in. That’s not a fatigue thing. That’s a mental thing.”
Arizona (13-1, 2-1 Pac-12) is now 0-60 on the road against teams ranked in the top 10. The Wildcats have lost 50 games consecutively against top 10 teams dating to 2004.
Barnes, of course, does not pay attention to that. The former All-American maintains a positive outlook, a significant reason why the Wildcats are experiencing a resurgence at her alma mater.
She also knows that one of her best players — starting senior forward Dominique McBryde — is slated to return soon after suffering a serious left ankle injury Dec. 2.
“We just have to get better,” she said. “I’m proud of our fight. We didn’t give up. We were a little defeated because we haven’t been in this situation in a while, but we’re going to get better, and we’ll be better with Dominique inside.”
UCLA (14-0, 3-0) is off to its best start in program history. The Bruins became the first team to eclipse the 60-point mark against Arizona, which experienced its best start in school history as well.
The Bruins had two players with double-doubles — Michaela Onyenwere (18 points and 13 rebounds) and Chantal Horvat (10 points and 10 rebounds). UCLA outrebounded Arizona 47-33.
The Wildcats, led by Aari McDonald’s 19 points, actually took eight more shots (66 to 58 attempts) but they shot only 33.3 percent from the field, 29.2 percent from 3-point range.
The bench was outscored by UCLA’s reserves 22-3 with the lone points coming on a 3-pointer by Tara Manumaleuga with 2:26 left in the game.
“Our offense was very stagnant; we let their pressure get to us,” Barnes said. “We have to be able to execute when things are tough.”
UCLA made 45 percent of its 3-pointers (9 of 20) and shot 60 percent from the field in the second half to pull away.
“They hit 3’s and they did things that normally we do not allow,” said Barnes, noting the UCLA entered the game making 29 percent of its 3-pointers. “I thought we got a little tense when we were down but they were a better team (today).”
A 14-2 run by UCLA was the difference with the Bruins taking a 51-38 lead with 3:59 left in the third quarter. UCLA outscored Arizona 28-13 in the third quarter after the game was tied at 31 at halftime.
The Bruins shot 60 percent from the field in the quarter after shooting 37.5 percent in the first half.
Arizona, meanwhile, shot 33.3 percent from the field in the second half, including 2 of 12 from 3-point range.
Arizona stayed alive in the first half despite falling behind by margins of 14-9 in the first quarter after committing a technical foul with six players on the court and 29-22 in the second quarter after not scoring in the first 4:10 of the quarter.
The Wildcats closed the first quarter on an 8-0 run and the second quarter with a 9-2 rally to tie the game at 31 at halftime. The Wildcats, outrebounded by UCLA 28-19 in the first half, were fortunate UCLA committed 10 turnovers (that led to 11 points for Arizona) and the Bruins made only 4 of 13 attempts from the free throw line.
Arizona played through upstart post player Semaj Smith getting her third foul and Cate Reese and Sam Thomas each assessed their second foul in the second quarter.
Thomas fouled out with 10 points, only two in the second half. Reese had 12 points and seven rebounds. Smith also fouled out with six points and four rebounds.
“I thought that after our fouls we were very hesitant,” Barnes said. “I mean, Sam never fouls out. We don’t ever usually foul out like this.”
UCLA has defeated Arizona 13 consecutive times. The Bruins play at McKale Center on Jan. 30. The last time the teams played there, UCLA survived in triple-overtime last January.
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.