PAC-12 TOURNAMENT FINALS:
UCLA 75, Arizona 71
Kyle Anderson (UCLA), 21 points
Jordan Adams (UCLA), 19 points
Norman Powell (UCLA), 15 points
Nick Johnson (Arizona), 21 points
Before I go any further, I would like to say this:
I sincerely, with all my heart, apologize for saying that I was done with this year’s UCLA basketball team after their loss at Washington State.
I said what I said out of frustration of the team’s struggles of losing second games on the road, but…
What these Bruins did in Las Vegas this weekend reminded me that I should never, EVER write this team – or ANY UCLA team – off. Even if they lose to the Little Sisters of the Poor.
And I will be sure to never do it again.
I sincerely hope that the UCLA basketball program, and all of Bruin Nation, accepts my heartfelt apology.
Now that that is out of the way…
Anyone in his right mind would agree that this Pac-12 Tournament title game at the MGM Grand Garden Arena between what was clearly the conference’s two best teams not only lived up to the billing, it was an “Instant Classic” that ESPN Classic needs to put on that channel right away – the game was that good.
And everything a tournament championship game should be as Steve Alford’s 2nd-seeded Bruins showed they were on a mission by punching Arizona in the mouth right away in building an early 13-3 lead.
However, these #1-seeded and 4th-ranked Wildcats from Tucson, who were the top-ranked team in the nation at one point, didn’t reach that lofty ranking for nothing as they stayed right with UCLA after that first punch, the Bruins only leading by three at halftime.
It was a defensive struggle in the game’s second 20 minutes as 12,916 loud, excited, and delirious fans (mostly from Arizona) found the two teams tied at 68 with two minutes left.
Then it really got exciting…
After some defensive stops and some missed shots, Jordan Adams, in a play that Alford set up for him, made a 23-foot three-point shot with 44.2 seconds left to put his team ahead.
U of A’s Aaron Gordon, Nick Johnson and Gabe York then tried three-pointers ranging from 22 to 24 feet in a 15 second span – and missed them.
While David Wear, after Johnson made a three with one second left, and Norman Powell, who impressed again with his 15 points, made two free throws each to secure the title, putting the relatively small UCLA crowd that made the trip from Westwood up I-15 in celebratory mode, winning 75-71.
It’s the Bruins’ first Pac-12 tournament championship since 2008 and 4th overall, tying them with Arizona (30-4) for the most conference tourney titles.
It’s also Alford’s eighth conference tournament title as a head coach, and his third straight conference tournament crown as he won two straight Mountain West tournaments at New Mexico in 2012 and 2013.
Which proves once and for all that athletic director Dan Guerrero hired the right man to lead this iconic program.
The way they picked themselves up after the Washington State embarrassment, and the way they went through this tournament in Vegas, shows the heart, guts, and resilience that the first-year UCLA coach has instilled in his charges.
Kyle Anderson certainly responded to Alford’s style this season and weekend as his 15 rebounds and making ten of his 15 free throws – to go along with his team-high 21 points – earned him the tournament’s Most Valuable Player honors.
And helped to propel the Bruins (26-8) to a possible four seed, or maybe even a three seed, when the brackets are announced tomorrow on Selection Sunday.
They definitely deserve a high seeding after choosing their conference’s post-season tourney to play their best basketball of the season.
Now there’s nothing left to do but wait and see where the selection committee places them.
COVERAGE OF UCLA IN THE NCAA TOURNAMENT – WHERE THE BRUINS WILL GO, WHAT THEIR SEED WILL BE, AND WHO THEY WILL BE PLAYING – WILL BE FEATURED ON THIS SITE THIS COMING WEEK.