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UCLA Is Reduced to Praising Arizona

Turnovers help sink Bruins in a 107-83 loss to the Wildcats, a team Howland says could make a deep run in the NCAA tournament.

February 15, 2004|Rob Fernas | Times Staff Writer

TUCSON — It wasn't the Valentine's Day massacre some expected, but Arizona's 107-83 victory over UCLA on Saturday was, ultimately, convincing and predictable.

The 16th-ranked Wildcats showed again there is a Grand Canyon separating themselves and the Bruins, who made a season-best 66% of their shots yet were unable to stay in the game because of a season-worst 28 turnovers.

"They're quicker, they're faster," UCLA Coach Ben Howland said of the Wildcats. "No one would be surprised if they made a deep run in the [NCAA] tournament."

Arizona guard Salim Stoudamire showed he was ready for prime time with a remarkable performance in front of 14,566 in McKale Center.

The left-handed junior led six Wildcats in double figures with a career-best 34 points, making 13 of 17 shots, including seven of nine from three-point range. He seemed to make a basket every time Arizona needed one.

Arizona's 107 points were the most given up by UCLA since a 120-84 loss to Duke on Feb. 22, 1998.

UCLA didn't go quietly, though. The Bruins cut a 16-point deficit to one in the first half and came from 13 down to pull within six early in the second half.

But Arizona answered each challenge, usually by picking the Bruins' pockets with a suffocating full-court press. The Wildcats finished with 15 steals.

"UCLA was shaken by the press, and it totally destroyed them," Coach Lute Olson said.

It was the eighth loss in nine games for the Bruins (10-11, 6-7 in the Pacific 10 Conference), whose record dipped below .500 for the first time this season. Four weeks ago, they were 9-3 and tied for first place in the Pac-10 at 5-0.

Trying to pull out of their tailspin in Tucson proved too tall an order. Arizona's victory was its seventh in a row over UCLA in McKale Center, where the Bruins have not won since 1997. The Wildcats improved to 11-1 on their home court this season.

But if UCLA was looking for moral victories, there were several to be found in Saturday's game. The Bruins made 33 of 50 shots from the field and all the starters shot over 50%.

"I can't remember ever losing a game by 24 and shooting [that well]," Howland said.

Dijon Thompson led UCLA with 20 points and made four of six three-point shots, T.J. Cummings scored 17 points and freshman Trevor Ariza had 14 points and 10 rebounds.

The shooting numbers were negated by UCLA's turnovers. The biggest culprits were point guard Cedric Bozeman (seven turnovers) and Ariza (six).

Arizona (16-6, 8-5) used a 21-4 run to take a 33-17 lead midway through the first half before UCLA rallied behind Thompson's outside shooting. The Bruins cut the deficit to 47-46 on a steal and layup by Bozeman with 2 minutes 31 seconds left in the half.

The rally ended when Arizona applied its press and forced UCLA into turnovers on four consecutive possessions. Guard Chris Rodgers scored eight points in a row on a layup and two three-point baskets to complete a 10-0 run that gave the Wildcats a 57-46 halftime lead.

"We didn't get into our press break and it led to some easy turnovers," Bozeman said. "They jumped on that."

Said Howland of the stretch: "Obviously, it was disappointing."

With 23 turnovers in Thursday's 74-62 overtime loss at Arizona State, UCLA completed the trip with 51 turnovers in two games.

After Arizona extended its lead to 59-46 on a basket by Stoudamire to open the second half, the Bruins rallied and twice cut the deficit to six points, the last time on Thompson's driving basket with 14:43 to play.

Center Channing Frye, who played only seven minutes in the first half because of foul trouble, responded by making an outside jump shot and a dunk after a UCLA turnover to increase the lead to 70-60.

After that, UCLA never got closer than nine points.

Frye, a 6-foot-11 junior, put an exclamation point on the victory with an alley-oop dunk for a 92-73 lead before fouling out moments later with 4:38 to play.

Afterward, the Bruins seemed accepting of their fate.

"They score in bunches," Thompson said of Arizona. "It's easy for them to go up 10 in the blink of an eye."

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Desert Dry

UCLA's 107-83 loss to Arizona on Saturday was the seventh in succession at Tucson for the Bruins, who have lost by an average of 20.7 points in those games. How UCLA coaches have fared against Arizona since the schools' home-and-home series began in 1978-79, and their records at Tucson and against Wildcat Coach Lute Olson:

*--* Coach Seasons Ovrl. At Ariz. Vs. Olson G. Cunningham 1978-79 1-1 0-1 0-0 Larry Brown 1979-81 4-0 2-0 0-0 Larry Farmer 1981-84 6-0 3-0 2-0 Walt Hazzard 1984-88 3-5 1-3 3-5 Jim Harrick 1988-96 8-9 3-5 8-9 Steve Lavin 1996-03 6-9 1-6 6-9 Ben Howland 2003-04 0-2 0-1 0-2 Totals 28-26 10-16 19-25

*--*

UCLA's last victory in Tucson was 66-64 on Feb. 13, 1997 -- also the last season that the Bruins won the home-and-home series. UCLA has swept the season series 10 times, five in Olson's tenure. The Bruins' longest winning streak against Arizona is 11 from 1979-84.

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