The UCLA Bruins suffered its second conference loss at home on Saturday evening to the Arizona Wildcats. The Wildcats were boosted by the return of sophomore Alonzo Trier and backed up its strong defense statistics against the number one offense in the nation with a 96-85 victory.
The Bruins were averaging 93.3 points per game and were beating opponents by an average of 17.8 points heading into its matchup with the Wildcats. In front of a crowd of sports Hall of Famers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Cris Carter and Dave Winfield the Bruins had its 11 game home win streak snapped by Arizona forcing the team out of its comfortable style of play.
UCLA head coach Steve Alford stressed how his team must play better defense if the team hopes to be playing deep into March.
“If we want to become great, we’ve got to play as unselfishly defensively together as we do at the offensive end,” said Alford. “You could be awfully special by the time we get to March, but your defense has got to grow.”
Arizona crashed the boards on both ends of the floor and played to its preferred tempo to get UCLA out of its groove. Arizona game planed well to make the Bruins pass up its first shot on possessions and attacked the weak links of UCLA’s defense consistently when on offense.
Potential top pick in the NBA Draft Lonzo Ball led his team with 24 points, but also recognized his team needs to play better defense to win these challenging games.
“It’s a wake-up call,” said Ball. “The places we want to go we have to play defense.”
UCLA fans should not be concerned as this team has a special offense led by Ball and plenty of playmakers including TJ Leaf and Bryce Alford. Defense will be the key to this UCLA team making a deep run into March. If they can pick it up on this end they have a strong chance to bring a national championship banner back to Pauley Pavilion.