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February 25, 2012
One of the truly great rivalries in the Pac-12 will be held Saturday February 25th at 11:00am PST, telecast will be on CBS. UCLA will face the University of Arizona at McKale Center in Tucson, Arizona. UCLA will be faced with trying to beat both the Wildcats team and their 14,545 screaming fans. Arizona has led the Pac-12 in attendance for 27 consecutive seasons. UCLA has a 48-35 record against the Wildcats in a series that started in 1923.
UCLA won the first meeting between these two schools 65-58 back on January 6th. Travis Wear had 20 points, five rebounds and three blocked shots in that one while his twin, David, had 14 points and five boards. Lazeric Jones had a stellar game with 13 points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals. It was a game that was played without the services of Joshua Smith.
Arizona is 19-9 overall and 10-5 in conference, just a game and a half ahead of UCLA with only a game at rival Arizona State left in its conference season. The young Wildcats are 6-2 in conference play at home, having lost to Oregon and Washington. Especially in this season, home play significantly boosts Pac-12 teams' performances.
Arizona is young but very talented. The Wildcats averages 69.9 points per game while giving up 62.7. Arizona is third in the Pac-12 with a plus 7.3 point differential.
Arizona is ninth in the conference in field goal percentage (44.5 percent) but second in three point shooting at 37.9 percent. The Wildcats shoot free throws at 69.4 percent which is good enough for fifth in conference.
Arizona is second in Pac-12 in defending opponents, allowing them to shoot only 40.4 percent from the field and are number one in the conference in three point field goal defense allowing their foes to shoot only 27.2 percent from beyond the arc.
Kyle Fogg, Solomon Hill and Jesse Perry are the big three for the Wildcats. Fogg, who registered a double-double against SC Thursday night, is the leading scorer at 12.8 points per game and he also leads them in steals with 32. Hill is the leading rebounder averaging 8.2 a game, leads the team in assists with 74 and is second in scoring at 12.4 ppg. Perry has stepped up his game and is third in scoring with a 12 point average and is second in rebounds with 7.2.
The Wildcats are sixth in the conference in rebounding margin at plus 2.2 and sixth in blocked shots averaging 3.43. Arizona averages 14.1 assists a game and 5.4 steals. The Wildcats have had problems with turnovers and are seventh in the conference with a minus .5 turnover margin.
Arizona is fifth in the league in offensive rebounds grabbing 10.4 per game. Arizona leads the league in three point shots made at 7.46 per game.
Arizona is coached by Sean Miller who is in his third season in Tucson. Miller has recruited well, having the nation's top rated recruiting class lined up to come in next fall in addition to his current very young team - a situation quite similar to that at UCLA. Both these teams look to retake their spots atop the conference a year from now. Miller has lamented the Wildcats' propensity for turnovers. Turnovers have hurt the Wildcats in each of their losses and are no doubt aware of the Bruins' strong performance in terms of steals this season.
The Bruins have a size advantage inside though a deficit in terms of quickness. They will need Smith to have a strong game and stay on the floor for a longer period of time if he is even able to play after tweaking his back during yesterday's practice. Having Anthony Stover back has to add to Coach Ben Howland's confidence going into this one as does Lazeric Jones' reemergence as a scorer Thursday night.
The Bruins handled the 'Cats the first go-around in L.A. but the home court - especially on seniors day - gives Arizona a significant boost this time around. The game could come down to the Bruins' mental toughness, withstanding the rush of an improving team on its home court late in the game.
If the St. John's game was irrelevant to UCLA's post-season hopes and the Arizona State game was merely an obstacle the mostly-young Bruins had to fight through to get to this one, this time it's for the marbles. A win keeps alive UCLA's hopes of obtaining a first round bye in the conference tournament. Equally, a win for UofA does the very same thing for them.
Time to toss it up and get it on in the desert.