Arizona falls to UCLA 82-74 behind poor defense and a slow start

Simon Asher | The Daily Wildcat UCLA's Jaylen Hands looks to drive past Arizona's Dylan Smith (3) during the fist half of the UA-UCLA game on Thursday, Feb. 8 at McKale Center in Tucson, Ariz. Hands had 11 points in the game.

A lack of effort, poor defense and a slow start gave UCLA the opportunity to hand No.13 Arizona men's basketball its first home loss of the season Thursday in the McKale Center. 

The Wildcats haven't lost at home since last year when UCLA beat them 77-72 in the final home game of the 16-17’ season.

"They came in and took it to us," Arizona head coach Sean Miller said. “It didn’t feel the same. We had won 80 of 82 (home) games. You’re not used to losing, especially like that.”

Arizona Men's Basketball Head Coach Sean Miller walks off the court after the UA-UCLA game on Thursday, Feb. 8 at McKale Center in Tucson, Ariz. UCLA beat Arizona 82-74.

The Wildcats, 19-6 (9-3), are now within one game of USC, 17-8 (8-4), for first place in the Pac-12. 

Arizona will get a chance to rebound from the loss when USC, who also lost to ASU, comes to the McKale Center Saturday.  

Just like when Arizona lost to Washington on Feb. 3, the Wildcats made things difficult by getting off to a slow start. Arizona started the game 0-3 and quickly faced a 10-3 deficit. The Wildcats responded with a 9-0 run to take the lead, but then Jaylen Hands shot 3-for-3 from 3-point range in the final 54 seconds of the first half to put UCLA up 10.

The Wildcats started the second half shooting 5-of-6 and brought the game to within four with 15:44 to go, but UCLA answered with a burst of offense, extended the lead to 15, and never looked back. 

Several times in the second half, Arizona started to make a run and the crowd started getting back into the game. But each time, UCLA would hit a 3-pointer and push the lead back out of reach. 

In what now seems to be a season long trend for this years team, Arizona's defense looked slow and confused. UCLA took wide open shots from deep, and cut to the rim with ease. Several times in the second half, when a UCLA player would blow past an Arizona defender and make his way inside for an easy bucket, Arizona players started arguing with each other.  

"We don't lose games like this at home," Dusan Ristic said. "Obviously our defensive was a problem, it didn't look good. We always talk about stats and stuff like that, but it just didn't look good today. Our aggressiveness level wasn't where it was supposed to be, we didn't play at 100 percent."

UCLA’s Gyrogy Goloman (14) pushes up against Arizona’s Dusan Ristic (14) during the UA-UCLA game Thursday, Feb. 8 in the McKale Center in Tucson, Ariz.

Overall five UCLA players had 11 or more points. Aaron Holiday led the way with 17 and eight assists, while Gyorgy Goloman followed him with 16. 

"Aaron Holiday is just a tremendous player," Miller said. "He dominated the game, 17 points and eight assists, pretty much had his way. He took what he wanted."

For Arizona, Allonzo Trier had 17 and Deandre Ayton trailed him with 16 points and 12 rebounds. Ayton shot an uncharacteristic 7-of-19 from the floor and only made it to the free throw line twice. 

The game did not include a lot of fouls, as Arizona went to the line 10 times and the Bruins nine. 

However in the first half, Trier picked up two back-to-back fouls, forcing Miller to sit him for several minutes before halftime. He checked back into the game with three minutes left and immediately made a fastbreak dunk to put the crowd on its feet.  

Arizona's Allonzo Trier jumps to dunk the ball during the UA-UCLA game on Thursday, Feb. 8 at McKale Center in Tucson, Ariz. Trier ended the game with 17 points.

Overall, the Wildcats shot 44 percent from the floor and 36 percent from three in the first half, while UCLA shot 52 percent from the floor and 46 from deep. 

Arizona moves on to play USC in the McKale Center Saturday at 8:15 p.m. on ESPN.

Follow Nate Airulla on Twitter

Share this article