Fri, 21 Sep 2018

UCLA aims to beat No. 14 Arizona again

Sports Xchange
09 Mar 2018, 13:49 GMT+10

LAS VEGAS -- There are no guarantees in March, so UCLA will continue to try to keep winning as it pertains to the NCAA Tournament.

The Bruins are still considered a bubble team heading into Friday's meeting with No. 15 Arizona in the semifinals of the Pac-12 Tournament.

"We just need to keep winning," said Kris Wilkes, after his Bruins beat Stanford 88-77 in Thursday's quarterfinals at T-Mobile Arena.

The win gave UCLA its 21st victory in what has been a less-than-normal season given the early season suspension of three freshmen for theft in China. It is 21-10 overall after Aaron Holiday scored 34 points for the second straight game Thursday.

UCLA has recovered slowly but surely having won its last two games (and eight of 11) to set up its rematch with conference champion Arizona (25-7), a team that has seemingly overcome its own controversy this season given the ongoing FBI investigation into recruiting.

All Arizona coach Sean Miller was concerned about was preparing for the next game. He refused to bite on any questions related to the FBI investigation involving his team and focused on an opponent a team Arizona is facing for the sixth time in the last seven seasons in the Pac-12 Tournament.

"We're just focused at the task at hand," Miller said.

And that would be playing much better than it did in the one-and-only meeting last month. UCLA dominated the Wildcats in McKale Center 82-74.

Arizona appeared lifeless and listless in a rare loss at home. All five UCLA starters scored in double figures with Holiday leading the way with 17.

"Me and Tom (Welch) are very confident," said Holiday, who is averaging 28.2 points in his last five games. "We went into Arizona, tough place to play, and we got the W. We know it's not going to be easy, especially after beating them there. I know they are going to come out hard. (But) we are pretty confident. We just have to go out there and do what we can do pretty much."

In the first meeting, UCLA kept Arizona freshman Deandre Ayton and senior Dusan Ristic from having big days, although they combined for 27 points. Ayton had 16 and 12 rebounds.

"We just have to body up against them just like everybody else," Wilkes said. "We'll be fine.

"That was the biggest difference in that our bigs contributed a lot. They rebounded, and they kept Ristic and Ayton under control. Deandre still had a double-double but he missed a lot of easy buckets he usually gets. As long as we can do that we'll be solid."

Arizona will have to contain Holiday and Gyorgy Goloman, who had a good game in scoring 16 points.

"I went into (McKale) expecting a fight and I fought," Goloman said. "I did whatever I could."

Arizona is looking to make amends and has now won three consecutive games after losing to Oregon two weeks ago.

"If you want to advance in March," Ristic said. "We have to have everybody playing their best basketball right now. We don't have two or three months left. This is it. Everybody has to perform at the highest level if you want to make a run in the tournament."

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