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No. 2 Arizona tops No. 13 UCLA 84-76 to win Pac-12 title

Photo courtesy Associated Press
Posted at 10:26 PM, Mar 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-13 00:26:01-05

LAS VEGAS, Nevada — Bennedict Mathurin scored 27 points and No. 2 Arizona used a massive second-half run to beat No. 13 UCLA 84-76 on Saturday night, winning the Pac-12 Tournament in coach Tommy Lloyd’s first season.

The Wildcats and Bruins put on a Vegas headlining show worthy of the conference’s top two seeds, trading athletic plays and big runs at the first full-capacity Pac-12 Tournament in three years.

The top-seeded Wildcats (31-4) played their second straight game without point guard Kerr Kriisa due to a sprained right ankle suffered in the quarterfinals against Stanford. His replacement, Justin Kier, was limited to 13 minutes due to foul trouble, depleting Arizona’s depth even more.

Arizona labored without Kier, falling into an 12-point hole early in the second half before finding a gear few other teams have. The Wildcats went on a 22-5 run to lead 63-58 and fire up the McKale Center north (T-Mobile Arena) crowd.

Arizona kept its offensive Strip show rolling to sweep the Pac-12 regular-season and tournament titles for the seventh time — and lock up a likely No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

The second-seeded Bruins (25-7) shut down Arizona for long stretches and appeared to be headed toward a repeat of their lopsided win in Westwood in January.

UCLA went into a lengthy offensive funk after going up 53-41, triggering the Wildcats’ play-fast offense and their raucous fans. The Bruins tried to punch back, but the Wildcats countered each time.

UCLA pulled within 80-76 in the final minute, but Christian Koloko and Oumar Ballo had three blocked shots in the final 38 seconds. Ballo blocked six shots overall and Koloko four.

Jules Bernard scored 19 points and Jaime Jaquez Jr. 18 to lead the Bruins.

Sin City turned into Hoops City after two years of pandemic restrictions, with five conference tournaments played over nine days. The Pac-12 finale topped the marquee a few steps from The Strip, the conference’s top two teams during the regular season.

The Bruins and Wildcats put on a high-level show in the first half — when fouls weren’t being called.

The Wildcats were whistled 12 times and Kier was limited to eight minutes after picking up three fouls. The Bruins were called for nine fouls, including two each on three players.

UCLA led 40-35 at halftime after Juzang hit a 3 at the buzzer.

The hits kept coming.

Kier picked up his fourth foul 62 seconds into the second half and Koloko was called for a Flagrant 1 foul on an elbow to Bernard’s head.

Bernard made both free throws and Tyger Campbell hit a jumper to cap a 10-2 run that put UCLA up 50-39.

UCLA big man Cody Riley then went to the bench with his fourth foul. Arizona took advantage with its big run and kept it rolling, hitting 16 of 24 shots in the second half.

BIG PICTURE

UCLA’s defense was superb early, but flailed once Arizona got rolling. The Bruins are still plenty good enough to make some noise again in the NCAA Tournament.

Arizona, after a slow start, showed off the gear few teams can match. That’s why they’re among the favorites to win the national title.

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UCLA: Will likely still be a high seed in the NCAA Tournament

Arizona: Will likely be a No. 1 seed on Selection Sunday.