Arizona faces UCLA in Pac-12 tournament championship game
LAS VEGAS — Almost a year later, the Wildcats get their rematch.
The Pac-12 tournament’s top-seeded Arizona Wildcats (30-3) will faceoff against second-seed UCLA (25-8) in a sold-out conference tournament championship Saturday at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Tip-off is scheduled for 3 p.m. and the game will be televised on Fox Sports 1.
Scandal dominated last season’s semifinal contest between Arizona and UCLA after an officiating controversy led to the resignation of Pac-12 coordinator of officials Ed Rush.
Stanford senior guard Robbie Lemons (10) and Stanford senior forward/guard John Gage (40) contest UCLA sophomore guard Jordan Adams's (3) shot during the second semifinal of the Pac-12 Tournament at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on Friday. UCLA lead 84-59 against Stanford and advance to the Finals at 3 p.m. to take on Arizona.
“Last year we got cheated,” sophomore guard Gabe York said. “Everyone has that in the back of their minds. We know that this is a new team and obviously those refs aren’t officiating our games anymore; but we kind of take that personally knowing that we could have won last year if things went slightly a different way.”
Head coach Sean Miller argued that former Wildcat guard Mark Lyons should not have been assessed a double dribble with 4:47 left in the Arizona’s 66-64 loss because a Bruin touched the ball. Miller was outraged and was issued his first technical foul of 2012-13.
“He touched the ball,” Miller said after the 2013 semifinal.
Rush would resign after a report surfaced that he allegedly offered officials $5,000 or a trip to Cancun if they gave Miller a technical foul or ejected him.
Miller was fined $25,000 by the Pac-12 for confronting an official and acting “acting inappropriately” toward a conference staff member after the game.
Despite last year’s fiasco, York said that it is in the past, and all the team can do is focus on doing its best.
“Just like in the road to the regular season championship, we’re going to play every game like we know how,” York said. “We’re not going to try to go off the path of what we’ve done for 33 games. It’s definitely a factor of being ready to play tomorrow just like we were against Utah and Colorado.”
No. 4 ranked Arizona has been a force to be reckoned with this week in Las Vegas and has beaten both of its opponents by 20 points or more. The Wildcats enter the game fresh off a 63-43 victory over Colorado. Miller commended his team’s performance as the Wildcats revitalized themselves and broke the game open in the second half after leading by just three points at halftime.
“We haven’t played better basketball at any time this year than we did in the final 20 minutes today,” Miller said. “
UCLA has cruised through this year’s tournament similarly to Arizona and put together a 19-point victory over Oregon in the semis and 25-point win over Stanford in the quarterfinals.
“Whenever you obtain your goals it’s a good feeling,” junior guard Nick Johnson said. “It was a great feeling when we won the Pac-12 and definitely it’s going to be a good feeling when we win this. It’s just one more item we can check off the list. That being said, we’re expecting a battle. We’re going to come out just the way we did [today] and hopefully our defense wears on them and we hit our shots.”
What to watch for:
While UCLA’s leading scorer Jordan Adams was relatively quiet in the Bruin’s 84-59 victory over Stanford in the semifinals, he has hurt Arizona before.
In last year’s semifinal against the Wildcats, Adams carried UCLA to victory, scoring 24 points, grabbing four rebounds and adding two assists and two steals before breaking a bone in his right foot on the game’s final play.
In the UA’s sole conference matchup against UCLA this season, Adams recorded a double-double, scoring 12 points while pulling down 11 rebounds, three assists and three steals.
Sophomore forward/guard Kyle Anderson compiled 13 points, eight rebounds and seven assists against Stanford on Friday night. This year, Anderson was the closest player in the nation to average a triple-double per game. He and is averaging 14.8 points, 8.7 rebounds and 6.6 assists per game entering the contest against the UA.
—Follow Evan Rosenfeld @EvanRosenfeld17