Arizona basketball game notes: renovated Pauley Pavilion gives Wildcats idea
The Pauley Pavilion has seen many battles between Arizona and UCLA since it was founded in 1965. But, after a complete overhaul on the interior of the stadium, a new chapter was readied for the classic Pac-12 rivalry.
While it wasn’t exactly a game for the ages, the Wildcats and Bruins delivered a tightly contested game to the packed Pavilion Saturday, even if the 74-69 UCLA victory wasn’t what Arizona or its fans were looking for.
“That was a great win and a great crowd,” UCLA head coach Ben Howland said. “It was awesome to have Pauley rocking and have phenomenal support from our fans.”
A reported 13,727 fans were in attendance to watch a back-and-forth game between the conference’s perennial powers, the biggest crowd the new-look Pavilion has had. Not everyone in the crowd was donning powder blue, as a handful of Wildcat faithful made the trip. But, all in the building were able to take in a tournament-worthy environment in a state-of-the-art facility.
Head coach Sean Miller was impressed with the stadium’s face-lift. He was also encouraged, as the flawless change from historic to high-tech in Los Angeles has the chance to be implemented in Tucson as well.
With athletic director Greg Byrne in the building, Miller said it gives the school a great thing to look at as the 40-year-old McKale Center waits for a update of its own.
“You don’t necessarily need a new building for it to feel much different,” Miller said. “You can only imagine how spectacular McKale can be with a similar type of things.”
Of course, the Wildcats’ home court already has the advantage of attendance. The Pauley Pavilion hasn’t been full for a majority of the season; that’s not the case in Tucson, who sold out almost every home game this year.
Mayes finally emerges
Conference play hasn’t been kind to junior Jordin Mayes. The backup guard has struggled to even find the rim at times, making 7-for-29 of his shots in Pac-12 play before Saturday.
It didn’t exactly start out great for Mayes, either. He blew a layup early on and guard Norman Powell, for a lack of a better word, posterized him in the first half. But, Mayes finally found his stroke, and his teammate of three years, Kevin Parrom, couldn’t be happier for him.
“I told him welcome back after the first half,” Parrom said. “I haven’t seen him play like that since the Texas game of my sophomore year. It’s good to have him back on board.”
As a freshman, Mayes scored 16 points in a third-round game against No. 4-seed Texas. He went 4-for-4 from deep and helped in the Wildcats’ dramatic 70-69 victory that sent them to the Sweet Sixteen.
He’s struggled for much of this season, though. Injuries burdened him at the end of his sophomore season and his minutes have been mostly limited as a junior. The fact that he was averaging 1.3 points per game on 24.1 percent shooting didn’t help him earn any more time, either.
“He’s had a rough go of it, just from the perspective that his shot hasn’t been falling,” Miller said. “He stuck with it (though).”
Mayes went 3-for-6 in the game, had two assists and played some crunch time minutes near the end of the game. Mayes, along with freshman Grant Jerrett, gave Arizona 22 points off the bench.
“You kind of saw what our team can become when you have guys off the bench contribute,” Miller said. “Jordin contributed, Grant contributed. We had some quality play from some other players, and to me that’s what we had for a long period of time. And, if we get that back, that’s a real valuable thing.”
A game of runs
The last time these two sides met, an 84-73 win by UCLA Jan. 24, the Bruins went on a 19-3 run to open the game and Arizona never recovered.
Saturday’s game featured a slew of runs by both sides. Yet, another huge burst by the Bruins, this time at the start of the second half, spelled doom for the Wildcats.
At least for Arizona’s sake, it was only a 12-2 this time.
“If you take that segment out, it was an even game — I guess we were winning the rest of the 36 minutes,” Miller said with a slight smile. “It could have gone either way.
“But, no question they really got us coming out of halftime, that’s always a concern … When you turn the ball over against a good team, bad things happen.”
After a charge by senior Solomon Hill opened the half, the Wildcats scored first as sophomore Nick Johnson dunked the ball home. Just like the UA made it a two point game.
But, that’d be the closest as Arizona would ever get as UCLA rattled off 12 unanswered points to take control of the game.
During the stretch, Arizona had two turnovers and an offensive goaltending call cancelled out a basket. A three-pointer by Jerrett finally stopped the bleeding, but the damage was already done.
“That’s what basketball is, it’s a game of runs,” Johnson said. “Like I told the guys coming out of the second half after they made their (12-2) run on us. I said, ‘they made their run, we’ll make our run.’ And sure enough, we did.
“You just got to stay with it. Basketball is a game of adversity and you just have to fight through it.”
Arizona closed the gap in the final minutes thanks to an 11-3 run. Jerrett’s deep ball was again a factor as he hit two in the final two minutes. But, it wasn’t enough and Arizona lost its second straight game.
It might not have been 19-3, but again a run by the Bruins became the death of the Wildcats.