It’s easy to see why UCLA is the most talked about team in college basketball this season. The Bruins have an up-tempo, three-point heavy offensive attack orchestrated by freshman star Lonzo Ball. It’s a lot of fun to watch. That’s only part of the reason why Arizona’s 96-85 victory at Pauley Pavillon on Saturday was so impressive.
Arizona picked apart a vulnerable UCLA defense all afternoon. The Wildcats took the ball to the rim at will, caught fire from three-point range and proved Sean Miller’s patented Packline defense could slow down even one of the most dynamic offenses in the country.
Six Arizona scorers finished in double-figures, led by 18 points from freshman Kobi Simmons. This game also marked the return of Allonzo Trier, who scored 12 points in his season debut.
Lauri Markkanen just snapped the ball to Kobi Simmons like it's football, Simmons --> Allonzo Trier...result: THUNDER DUNK pic.twitter.com/yGp73RPdkK— Ari Alexander (@AriA1exander) January 21, 2017
Arizona stays unbeaten in the Pac-12 and moves to 18-2 overall with the victory. UCLA falls to 19-2 and suffers its second conference loss.
Here are three things we learned in this game.
Sean Miller is a wizard
Arizona has faced as much adversity as any team in the country this season. A team with a lesser coach would have fallen apart after Trier’s suspension and Ray Smith’s heartbreaking early retirement, but not Miller’s Wildcats.
A win at UCLA is the signature victory Arizona was looking for. With Trier back in the lineup, there is no doubt this team is a Final Four contender.
Lonzo Ball is 100 percent worthy of the hype
Even in defeat, UCLA’s star freshman put on a show. Ball was dazzling, particularly in the first half, to finish with 22 points, eight assists and six rebounds. Ball once again showed that his three-point shot, while funky, is no fluke. He hit 4-of-8 shots from deep.
College basketball needs a deep NCAA tournament run from the Bruins, if for no other reason than so America can appreciate the Lonzo Ball show.
Basketball is better on the west coast
UCLA just has a penchant for playing in wildly entertaining games. You can point to their win over Kentucky at Rupp Arena and their last second loss to Oregon as evidence of that.
Add Arizona’s win over the Bruins to the mix. College basketball is rarely complimented for a beautiful back-and-forth flow, but it happened in this game.