The UCLA Bruins advanced to the Pac-12 Tournament final with a thrilling 66-64 semifinal victory over the Arizona Wildcats on Friday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. A quick breakdown:
How it happened: Jordan Adams scored 15 of UCLA’s final 21 points, including 13 in a row at one point, as the Bruins (25-8) erased an 11-point deficit in the final 10:24. With the Bruins clinging to a 62-61 lead, Adams stripped the ball from Arizona’s Mark Lyons, then was fouled and made a pair of free throws to give the Bruins a 64-61 lead with 1:13 to play.
Grant Jerrett drilled a 3-point basket to tie the game at 64 with 55 seconds to play. Adams tried to answer, but his 3-pointer missed. Kyle Anderson came up with a huge offensive rebound and putback for a two-point lead with 22 seconds to play. Solomon Hill missed a shot as time wound down, and UCLA hung on for its third victory in three tries over the Wildcats (25-7) this season.
The Wildcats, who threatened to run away from the Bruins several times, opened a 49-38 lead with 10:24 to play, thanks in large part to cold shooting by the Bruins. UCLA missed their first six shots of the second half and could not prevent Lyons from penetrating for layups or passes to set up easy shots. Adams caught fire from there, however, making five of his last seven shots and going 6-of-6 from the free throw line in the last 9:56.
During the first half, Arizona went on a tear from long range, making 3-point baskets on three consecutive possessions to open a 26-18 lead with 5:18 before intermission. But UCLA stayed close as Adams made four free throws and Travis Wear scored on an alley-oop from Kyle Anderson. The Bruins cut Arizona’s lead to 30-26 by halftime.
Player of the game: Adams had a game-high 24 points, including 16 in the second half, providing most of the offense for a team that was struggling to score for most of the game.
Stat of the game: The Bruins became the first team this season to win a game against Arizona when scoring fewer than 70 points. The Wildcats had been 23-0 when holding opponents under 70.
What it means: UCLA has a chance to win its first conference tournament title since 2008 and got a nice addition to its NCAA Tournament résumé by thrice defeating Arizona, which has the highest RPI of any team in the conference. The Bruins are hoping for a seeding that puts them in a pod out West for the national tourney; this victory should help those chances.
What’s next: The Bruins advance to the conference tournament final for the first time since winning it all in 2008. The Wildcats will have Saturday off and await their NCAA tournament fate to be handed out on Selection Sunday.