Arizona beats UCLA 66-58 in Pac-12 tournament
By BETH HARRIS
LOS ANGELES (AP) Arizona and UCLA weren't their usual high-scoring selves, with neither getting the kind of easy baskets that come when the offense is flowing.
Instead, it came down to defense and free throws - lots and lots of 'em by the Wildcats, who won 66-58 in the Pac-12 tournament quarterfinals Thursday despite going 8 1/2 minutes without a field goal in the second half.
The fourth-seeded Wildcats (22-10) were 24 of 27 from the free-throw line in the second half, and they needed those when their shooting dipped to 30 percent over the final 20 minutes and the Bruins briefly took the lead.
Solomon Hill scored 25 points, Jesse Perry added 16 points and Kyle Fogg scored 13. Arizona went 31 of 36 from the line, with Perry making 12 of 13 and Hill 12 of 14. Hill and Perry had 12 rebounds each.
"As often is the case in March, you ride the coattails of the individual players playing better than they've played before," Wildcats coach Sean Miller said. "The only thing you have to do is look at the stat sheet and the meaning of Jesse, Solomon and Kyle is immense. These three guys are the heart and soul of our team."
Arizona, seeking its first tournament title since 2002, advanced to Friday's semifinals against ninth-seeded Oregon State, which upset top-seeded Washington 86-84 earlier at Staples Center.
"The objective in March is to just keep winning and don't stop," Miller said. "Hopefully tonight is the first of a couple more."
"It hurts and I'm sad knowing that we're done," said Jones, a junior college transfer who played two seasons with the team. "It's not the way we wanted it to be."
UCLA played the final 11:03 without big man Joshua Smith, who fouled out in nine minutes after totaling seven points and three rebounds. Travis Wear, who had 10 points and six rebounds, fouled out for the first time this season with 2:52 remaining.
"I'm upset with myself," Smith said. "I realize my numbers aren't what they should be and not what they were last season. I'm definitely going to come back to UCLA. I know the work I have to put in during the offseason. There is no way I could leave on a note like that."
The loss snapped UCLA's three-game winning streak and all but guaranteed the Bruins will miss the NCAA tournament for the second time in three years.
Asked whether the team would accept a possible NIT bid - they haven't played in it since 1986 - coach Ben Howland said, "We would not snub our nose at the opportunity."
Fogg's 3-pointer to open the second half stretched Arizona's lead to nine points, and the Wildcats led by seven when the Bruins made their big push with 10 1/2 minutes left. Anderson led a 15-8 run with seven points, while Tyler Lamb's steal and layup gave UCLA its first lead, 46-45, since the game's opening minutes.
The teams traded baskets during a furious up-and-down sprint, capped by Anderson's 3-pointer that tied it at 51 with 6:16 to play.
"We had our opportunities to win this game and did not seize the moment," Howland said. "You've got to make those free throws in those tight situations. You've got to take better care of the ball."
Arizona ran off seven straight points despite briefly losing its shooting touch again, but the Wildcats' defense came up with big stops, with Fogg blocking Jones and Travis Wear picking up his fourth foul.
"Rebounding, staying together, and having an attack mentality," Perry said, summing up the Wildcats' approach. "Always when you get a little bit of opening, attacking. Attacking the glass, attacking the defensive glass and the offense just attacking period. It's opened up a lot of shots for us."
The Wildcats kept going to the line and sinking free throws, driving the final dagger into UCLA's season of dysfunction that included top player Reeves Nelson getting kicked off the team and an unflattering portrayal of the vaunted program in a Sports Illustrated story last week.
"It's been an extremely hard season with losing Reeves and all of the media hype with us being ranked," Smith said. "Now our season may be over. But we stuck together through thick and thin."
Anderson endured his own early-season suspension after stealing a laptop on campus.
"I really feel that I came here with a big (recruiting) class and a lot of hype," the senior said. "Just thinking about it, I don't really think we lived up to it that greatly."
The Bruins were the ones held to a lone field goal over the final 6:16.
The Wildcats improved to 2-3 against UCLA in conference tournament games, while their 20 victories and four titles are tops in the tourney's history.
They won without Josiah Turner, who was suspended indefinitely before the tournament for the second time this season after he violated unspecified team rules.
"I'm disappointed for Josiah, and hopefully this latest incident or lesson will really serve him well moving forward," Miller said.
Arizona led virtually the entire first half, with its largest lead of 10 points coming from a 14-5 run that included 3-pointers by Fogg and Hill. Jones took an elbow to the face and briefly went to the bench with a bloody nose. He returned to hit a 3-pointer during a 12-8 spurt that left UCLA trailing 29-23 at halftime.
Both teams combined for 20 turnovers in the sloppy half, when they were even on the boards and in steals. The Bruins were held to 34 percent field-goal shooting, with Arizona's defense forcing them into taking off-balance shots with only a few seconds left on the shot clock. The Wildcats finished with 19 turnovers and the Bruins had 13.
Updated March 8, 2012