Late comeback not enough as No. 11 Arizona Wildcats fall to UCLA 74-69
LOS ANGELES — For most of the season, Mark Lyons was Arizona’s Mr. Clutch.
In crunch time he’s won more than a few games for the Wildcats. But, against UCLA on Saturday night, he didn’t.
Lyons’ potential game-tying 10-foot jumper with 10 seconds left clanked off the rim and Arizona lost to UCLA 74-69 at Pauley Pavilion.
“He didn’t come through today,” said Kevin Parrom, “but I can live with that.”
The Wildcats trailed by three points for the first time since the second half started, but UCLA’s Shabazz Muhammad put the nail in the coffin with two free throws after the Lyons’ miss.
The play was intended to be a Grant Jerrett high screen at the top of the key, which would free up either Lyons or Jerrett, who had the hot hand. The screen didn’t really work, and Lyons threw up an off-balance jumper that ended the game for Arizona (23-6, 11-6 Pac-12). It was the Wildcats’ second straight loss after falling to USC on Wednesday.
Lyons scored 13 points, 11 of which came in the first half, and Jerrett had a team-high 14 points. The freshman forward hit four 3-pointers, including two in a late 12-2 run to bring the Wildcats within three points.
“We lost to a very good basketball team in a fantastic environment,” head coach Sean Miller said. “It would have been difficult for any team to come in here and win. To see Grant Jerrett do what he did as a freshman gives me a lot of hope here in the home stretch.”
Added Jerrett: “I felt fine. I just tried to compete and win for my teammates.”
When UCLA (22-7, 12-4) came to Tucson on Jan. 24, the Bruins jumped out to a quick 19-3 lead and never looked back in an 11-point win at the McKale Center.
The first half was more competitive this time, with UCLA holding a narrow 40-36 halftime lead after a last-second shot from point guard Larry Drew II. But, the Bruins did burst out the gates in the second half, which proved damning for Arizona.
After a Nick Johnson dunk to open the second half, UCLA went on a 17-3 run in the next five minutes and 44 seconds to take a game-high 13-point lead.
“They came out with a little more energy in the beginning of both halves,” said Parrom, who had 11 points and four rebounds. “We have to respond better that’s something we have to do better in order to win.”
Drew II had 14 points and nine assists, and Shabazz Muhammad added a game-high 18 points for the Bruins.
“It’s never good to lose,” Miller said. “The objective is to win. But I loved the fact that we fought back hard and gave ourselves an opportunity to win.”
Arizona was able to cut into the lead with its late run, but it was too little, too late and turnovers were a big factor in that.
The Wildcats had 16 turnovers, 10 of which came from Lyons and Solomon Hill, against 13 assists. The Bruins, on the other hand, had 17 assists with nine turnovers.
Hill in particular struggled, scoring in single digits for the second time in three games (with seven points) along with a season-worst five turnovers on 3-of-7 shooting.
“It happens,” Miller said. “Solomon came into this game with great intent, he wanted to win probably as bad as he’s ever wanted to win a game and sometimes that can work against you and I don’t know if it did or not but he didn’t have his best game.”
As a team, the Wildcats shot 44.4 percent from the field (24-of-54), 45.5 percent from three (10-of-22) and outrebounded UCLA 34-29.
Kaleb Tarczewski led Arizona with 10 rebounds, and added two blocks and six points in 26 minutes. His 10 rebounds were his most since he grabbed 13 against Miami on Dec. 23.
Arizona is off until March 9 when they welcome Arizona State to McKale Center for the regular season finale.