The last time that the Arizona Wildcats and the UCLA Bruins shared the same court, Arizona was shut down at McKale as it lost 73-84 in a game that shook the team.
It was just Arizona’s second loss of the year, but served as a message to some of the older players on the roster. Head Coach Sean Miller got the team motivated and coached his team to four straight wins before losing back-to-back games for the first time all season.
Arizona seemed to get back on track after a sweep over the Washington schools at home last week. However, the Wildcats’ performance in the loss to Southern Cal proved differently.
They played with a lack of intensity on the court while allowing the Trojans to shoot 60-percent from the field for the entire game.
UCLA also had some issues, but managed to hold onto the win against Arizona State in overtime. It was the third win in a row for the Bruins, who have won five of the last six, with the only loss coming against Cal.
Star freshman Shabazz Muhammad made it known before the first meeting that he was going to take it upon himself to beat Arizona in McKale Center. He did just that, scoring a game high 23 points, though he had just three rebounds and a single assist.
Muhammad is complemented on the court by the stellar point guard play of Larry Drew II. The North Carolina transfer played brilliantly against Arizona the first time around with seven of his own points while dishing out nine assists and turning the ball over just twice. He has had his recent struggles as well though, averaging five turnovers it the past five games for UCLA.
Freshman guard Jordan Adams will be another Bruin in the back court. He has been stellar for his team this season, arguably playing just as well as Muhammad. Adams had fifteen points and five rebounds in the first game against the Wildcats and has only gotten hotter. The freshman has been UCLA’s leading scorer in four of their eight games since beating Arizona, including a 22-point performance against ASU.
Kyle Anderson will also get the start on Saturday night. He is a special player in the game because of his height. He was able to play faster than Arizona’s Brandon Ashley, but bigger than Solomon Hill. While Anderson only had eight points in Tucson, he grabbed a game-high twelve rebounds and accumulated a game-high four steals.
Rounding out the starting lineup will be Travis Wear. He is recovering from an ankle injury and it is unknown if he will truly start and how much he will actually play. His brother David could fill in the starting spot, but Travis’ presence on the floor may be missed if he cannot play extended minutes.
David Wear getting extra playing time may not be the best thing for Arizona. In the first game, David went off for fifteen points and eight rebounds while his brother sat with foul trouble. His play shouldn’t be the deciding factor in the game, but if he has another game like the first, it is going to be difficult for the Wildcats to counterattack it.
Outside of those six, Ben Howland has been keeping his rotation tight. Norman Powell and Tony Parker have been seeing more playing time with Travis Wear’s injury, but now that he is back, Parker may be fighting for minutes. Powell has been a role player for the Bruins for the past two years and does what is needed from him for the success of the team.
Parker, a true freshman, has seen his playing time go up and down throughout the season and he has been hard pressed to find a groove. He has appeared in all but two games, averaging just over seven minutes in each. Parker is scoring 2.6 points per game pulling down 1.2 rebounds per night.
If Arizona can find a way to play the way that it did in the non-conference schedule, it will be just fine. If the same team that lost to USC shows up, the Bruins could win going away. The keys to the game will be how bad the Wildcats want revenge for the loss earlier in the season and how hard they want to work for it.