Another scoring drought cost Arizona men’s basketball another golden opportunity to get a win as their losing streak is now three games. Besides a Christian Koloko layup with one second left, the Wildcats went more than three and a half minutes without scoring as they fell to UCLA 69-65 Saturday night in Westwood.
Here are some of the numbers that made a difference in Saturday night’s game:
UCLA shot 22 more free throws than Arizona did and made 19 which was the story of the game. The Wildcats and Bruins both made six three-pointers and Arizona actually made seven more field goals overall but it was the free throws that really decided the game. Four of those shots from the line came because of technical free throws because of Sean Miller getting multiple technical fouls and eventually getting ejected.
It was another game where Arizona had a lead late and couldn’t close it out. This time it was a four-point lead after a Zeke Nnaji dunk with 3:48 left. Possession by possession after the Nnaji dunk included a Dylan Smith missed three, Stone Gettings turnover, Smith turnover, Max Hazzard turnover, Gettings missed three, Mannion missed three, Koloko missed layup, Mannion missed dunk and final ended by a Koloko made layup with only a second left when the game was already over.
This is another instance of Arizona just being unable to close out a game when they had a lead late. Both Oregon losses included Arizona blowing a lead and then also the Arizona St. game in January had Arizona blowing a big lead during the game. Heading into March, the Wildcats need to figure out how to close games late if they want to make a run in both the Pac-12 tournament and the NCAA tournament.
It was no secret that with Josh Green not making the trip to the L.A. schools that Mannion was going to have to play two of his best games. Against USC that was not the case as he only had 11 points on 21% shooting. On Saturday night however Mannion showed up. He finished with 19 points on 46% shooting with a couple threes. It was his highest scoring game since he put up 20 on February 6th against USC.
This team has always seemed to go as Mannion goes and if this is a sign of things to come for him then Arizona could get hot at the right time if Green comes back this week or during the conference tournament.
With this loss, Arizona now falls to sixth place in the Pac-12. The top four teams get byes on the first day of the conference tournament in a couple weeks and Arizona is going to need some help if they hope to get a top four seed. They’re a half game behind USC and a full game behind Colorado. USC only has one game left and it’s at home against UCLA. If they win, Arizona would need to win both games against the Washington schools to tie USC and then see what the tiebreakers would be. Colorado has two games left and both are on the road. The first is against Stanford on Sunday, followed by a game at Utah next week. If Arizona finishes tied with them, the Wildcats would get the tiebreaker since they beat Colorado in their only meeting this year.
The Wildcats need some pieces to fall their way, but if they can sweep the Washington schools at home this week and get some help, a top four seed isn’t out of the realm of possibilities. If Arizona is a five seed, they would play on the first day of the Pac-12 tournament — likely against Washington — which would not be an easy matchup, even though the Huskies are last in the conference.
Arizona begins their last homestand of the year on Thursday against Washington St. at 8:30 p.m. MST and then has senior night on Saturday as they host Washington at 8:00 pm.
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