Arizona Basketball

How Sweep it is! Cats get defensive to end UCLA’s 14-game winning streak

Arizona guard Kerr Kriisa sat the postgame podium and admitted there are some things the Wildcats need to fix.

Some little things that will help Arizona get better moving forward. On Saturday, those little things Arizona still need to correct may have caused a few heart palpitations but – at least for a game – they were not enough to lose to No. 5 UCLA. UA held on to win 58-52.

It showed Arizona can drive in the 50s and not get cited with a loss.

Not since February of 2015 has UA won a game scoring less than 60 points.

“I wonder if they stopped the game at halftime,” Lloyd joked. “We don’t have many games in the 50s. To have been able to win the game in the 50s against a team like UCLA says something.”

Azuolas Tubelis celebrates UA’s win over No. 5 UCLA. Photo courtesy of Arizona Athletics.

No. 11 Arizona won a prize fight in McKale Center, in front of a crazy, frenzied, white-wearing crowd that enjoyed most of it – save for the final minute. Heck, Lloyd acknowledged the last minute wasn’t pleasing, but he did say his team felt comfortable throughout.

“I’m super proud of our guys,” Lloyd said. “Over these seasons, you got to be able to win multiple ways. Obviously, UCLA was able to get that game at their tempo, but I think we were comfortable the whole time. Maybe except for that last minute when we were trying to ride out that lead. But, other than that, I think we were comfortable the whole time, which is a good sign for our guys.”

Sign might say: dip in road as opposed to dead end.

“We should have (put them away),” Kerr said. “But we were a little bit shaky with the press and stuff, even though we knew what was coming. We have a lot of things to clean up. But I’m really excited.”

As he should be. Arizona hit UCLA’s curve or was that change up? It slowed the pace – oftentimes Arizona’s Achilles’ Heel.

Arizona countered with some defense. That’s no typo.

Arizona had defense – it’s best of the season, although Lloyd said it was the best of the weekend. UCLA shot 31 percent for the game. UCLA coach Mick Cronin said his team was : “offensive-sensitive all game.”

“I think we proved that we can win low-scoring games,” Kriisa said. “Everybody keeps talking about our offense and offense and offense, but nobody really talks about how good our defense. We proved it. Courtney (Ramey) was on Tyger (Campbell’s) ass. Kylan (Boswell) came in and pressed full court. I’m really proud of the guys.”

Arizona had Ramey, who once again came through. This time with 11 points, nine coming from gut-punching 3s.

“The biggest difference was the ball went in this weekend,” Ramey said.

He was modest. For about a minute or two, Lloyd waxed poetic on Ramey.

“His impact on the game was significant,” Lloyd said. “He hit some dagger 3s and his defense was outstanding in both games.”

It had Azuolas Tubelis, who scored 14 points and had 10 rebounds in what was a physical game he needs more of.

There’s, of course, more but Arizona showed something that may have been the most important thing: it won a game in the 50s, which is nearly 30 points below its average. And while it’s way too early to look forward to the NCAA tournament – and I’m not now – games are usually played in the 50s and 60s.

Style points don’t matter then. And when you win – like on Saturday – they don’t matter now.

For Ramey, a Texas transfer, it was a physical Big 12 game.

“I know it’s different for him (he points to Kriisa) they’re used to playing in the 80s and 90s,” Ramey said. “… So you have to be great down the stretch and just adjust on the game games, they are a physical team. I think we matched them today. There is stuff we can do better but we just showed everybody we can play in the 50s, 60s, 70s or 80s. So, it was a good job by us.”

Arizona moved to 17-3 overall (as did UCLA) but is now two games behind UCLA in the Pac-12 standings. UA is 6-3 and UCLA is 8-1.  Arizona’s win comes two days after beating USC.

“They’re huge,” Lloyd said when asked about the back-to-back wins. “It was obviously UCLA’s first loss and we’ve had a couple. Three. So, I told our guys we still haven’t earned the right to talk about a Pac-12 championship. You got to earn that right. And that’s not something you talk about, and I don’t talk about winning regular season championships. You don’t just throw that statement out there. It’s got to really, really, really mean something and you got to really, really give yourself a chance. We took a step today, but you know what, we got to go up and play those Washington schools next week – and both of them – to be honest with you, got the better of us down here. So, we got a lot of work to do.”

Kerr would agree.

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