No. 1 ranked Arizona men’s basketball looks to extend its record to 16-0 Thursday evening when it faces UCLA at Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles.
With a win on Thursday, the UA would be off to the best start in program history. Tipoff is set for 7:05 MST, and the game will be televised nationally on ESPN.
Arizona (15-0, 2-0 Pac-12 Conference) enters the contest fresh off a grueling back-and-forth victory over Washington last weekend. UCLA (12-2, 1-0) comes in looking to keep the momentum rolling after the Bruins routed their crosstown rival USC 107-73 last Sunday. The target on Arizona’s back seems to grow larger by the week as the Wildcats now stand as the sole undefeated team in the Pac-12 after Colorado beat Oregon 100-91 on Sunday.
While the Wildcats have picked up two quick wins to begin Pac-12 play, Arizona’s offensive production slowed down against the competitive conference. Over the first two Pac-12 games this season, the UA has averaged 65.5 points compared to the 76.3 average over the nonconference season.
The Bruins will threaten the Wildcats, forcing Arizona to play near-flawless basketball if it hopes to escape Pauley still in possession of an undefeated record. Arizona heads into play having held opponents to under 55 points per game with a 36.6 shooting percentage and is fifth in the country in rebounding margin (plus 12.1).
The Bruins, on the other hand, have allowed opponents to score an average of 70.1 points per game and possess a rebounding margin of just plus 4.3.
UCLA has compiled an all-time 10-19 record against the Associated Press’ No. 1 teams and picked up its last victory over a top ranked team in the nation in an overtime win against Arizona in the 2003 Pac-10 tournament.
In UCLA’s most recent matchup with a No. 1 team in December 2009, the Bruins lost to Kansas 73-61.
Last year, the Bruins went 3-0 against the Wildcats, including a 66-64 win in the semifinals of the Pac-12 tournament, after which Arizona head coach Sean Miller lambasted the conference officials and was controversially fined.
UCLA’s lineup features sophomores Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams who average 15.1 and 18.7 points per game, respectively. Anderson is additionally averaging 8.9 rebounds and 6.6 assists per game, while Adams has scored 20 points in eight of the Bruins’ last 14 contests.
UCLA ranks among the top 10 nationally in points and assists per game to complement 52.7 percent accuracy from the field.
Arizona will be forced to depend on its defense yet again – one of the big reasons it’s still undefeated – to combat the Bruins’ high scoring. Arizona ranks second nationally in adjusted defense so far this year.
Despite the Bruins’ intimidating ability to score, Miller said that the team is eager to get on the court and see how they will fare.
“We are very excited about our trip to LA knowing that games are going to be difficult,” Miller said. “The trip itself has historically been difficult, so I think for us, we are looking at it as a great challenge. We view [UCLA] as one of the best teams in the country and certainly one of the best in our conference.
“They are an excellent team filled with individual talent, [and] they are playing well, especially offensively. I think it could be potentially our most difficult challenge of the season when it comes to trying to stop the other team from scoring.”
—Follow Evan Rosenfeld @EvanRosenfeld17