LOS ANGELES — The No. 1 Arizona men’s basketball team finds itself leading UCLA 42-38 at the half, despite Los Angeles taking advantage of eight Wildcat turnovers for 10 points. Arizona has eight turnovers compared to UCLA’s four and is being out-blocked. Additionally, the Bruins have six times the amount of steals as the Wildcats.
While Arizona goes into halftime leading, smooth sailing was not always the case. It saw the game momentum switch back and forth, going through 10 lead changes and six ties over the first twenty minutes of play.
Sophomores Brandon Ashley and Kaleb Tarczewski provided a necessary catalyst for the Wildcats, and combined for seven of Arizona’s 11 points during the first six minutes of play.
Tarczewski shot 3-for-3 from the field, while collecting three rebounds and sinking 3-of-4 free throw attempts.
Ashley finished the half compiling four points, two rebounds and an assist.
Going into the first media timeout, Arizona found itself trailing UCLA 10-9 largely due to the Bruins’ efficient defense. Five minutes in, UCLA had four steals compared to none by the Wildcats and twice as many assists. But, by the time the second media timeout came along, it seemed like Arizona began to pull everything together and saw themselves up by four points after cashing in on key rebounds and assists.
However; with 4:45 remaining, the Wildcats began to feel pressure from UCLA and saw their lead disappear after a clutch three pointer from Los Angeles’ Bryce Alford tied the score at 29. Then two free throws gave the Bruins a 31-29 advantage.
With 3:00 remaining, a three pointer by sophomore guard Gabe York gave the Wildcats a 32-31 lead before UCLA’s relentless offense tied the game at 34.
York put up nine points and two assists in nine minutes.
With 1:16 in the half Arizona held a one point advantage, until York shut the door on the Bruins with a long three pointer to put the Wildcats up by four.
Junior guards TJ McConnell and Nick Johnson have orchestrated an offense that is shooting with 53.3 percent accuracy from the field. McConnell has contributed with four points to complement four rebounds, five assists and the team’s lone steal.
Johnson added a team-leading 10 points and converted two shots from beyond the arc.
Highly touted freshman Aaron Gordon compiled six points, four rebounds, an assist and a block.
—Follow Evan Rosenfeld @EvanRosenfeld17