No. 10 Arizona Wildcats (23-5, 12-3) at UCLA (20-8, 11-4)by Javier Morales on Feb. 26, 2011, under Sports
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A look at what to expect Saturday afternoon as Arizona strives to clinch its first Pac-10 title since 2004-05:
Matchups (Tipoff 2 p.m., Tucson time)
What’s going right: Yes, it was against a downtrodden, ailing ASU team Thursday night but the Bruins starting backcourt of Lazeric Jones, Jerime Anderson and Malcolm Lee combined for 17 assists and only two turnovers. Jones, assessed a technical last month at McKale Center for raising an elbow, has showed more maturity overall in Pac-10 play with 65 assists and 26 turnovers.
What’s going wrong: Lee has not been able to get on track with his three-point attempts all season, shooting only 31.3 percent (36 of 115) from three-point range.
What’s going right: Hard to find a positive in the last couple of games and that has something to do with Arizona playing quality teams in Washington and USC. Another tough assignment against UCLA. Will Kyle Fogg continue his strong play on the road against a rival — UCLA and ASU? In the last two seasons, he has scored 21 and 26 points at ASU and 25 at UCLA, leading the Cats to victories in each game.
What’s going wrong: While Lazeric Jones, Lee and Anderson combined for 17 assists and two turnovers against ASU, Arizona’s perimeter trio of Lamont “MoMo” Jones, Solomon Hill and Fogg totaled two assists and five turnovers. Fogg scored 26 against ASU a couple of weeks ago. He has scored only 18 points in the three games since.
Who has the edge? UCLA. The Bruins at home are as tough lately as the Wildcats at McKale Center — winning seven straight — and a lot of that has to do with the stable guard play. Sound defense starts with the guards and UCLA has allowed only one opponent to score more than 60 points in the last seven games at Pauley Pavilion. Lazeric Jones, Lee and Anderson combine for 60 steals. If the UA guards do not take care of the ball and fail to generate offense, it will be a long, ugly game.
What’s going right: There is a reason why UCLA is back after a losing season last year and challenging for a Pac-10 title — both parts of their lineup (inside and outside) are as good as anybody’s in the league. The guard play is impressive and the frontcourt duo of Tyler Honeycutt and Reeves Nelson is the best in the Pac-10 (and that’s not including reserve center Joshua Smith). Honeycutt and Nelson combine for 26.2 points, 16.2 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game. That’s production supreme.
What’s going wrong: Like the rest of the Bruins from three-point range, Honeycutt is struggling with a 33.8 percentage from beyond the arc. Against ASU on Thursday, Honeycutt attempted 12 shots, nine of which were three-pointers. He made only three.
What’s going right: Jesse Perry continues his impressive performance in the second half of the Pac-10 season. He is averaging 8.8 points and 5.4 rebounds over his last nine games to go with a 50.8 field-goal percentage. He had 12 points, six rebounds and a season-high two blocks Thursday at USC, a game after posting 11 points, six rebounds and two assists against Washington.
What’s going wrong: Derrick Williams‘ right pinky is what’s wrong because it remains bandaged. If Arizona beats UCLA and clinches the Pac-10 regular-season title, is it out of the realm of possibility that UA coach Sean Miller sits Williams next weekend against the Oregon schools at home? If I was Miller I would, not only to rest Williams’ injured hand but to get the rest of the team accustomed to playing without him if he gets into foul trouble in the postseason.
Who has the edge?: UCLA. Williams did not look 100 percent mentally and physically against USC. It could be that Kevin O’Neill’s head games worked after the USC coach claimed the refs gave Williams preferential treatment. He now has to snap out of it against a bull in Nelson. Perry is improving but is not up to the caliber of Nelson and Honeycutt yet.
What’s going right: Similar to USC, UCLA does not go very deep, but the Bruins get the most of their resources. The Bruins primarily played only six players in rout of ASU on Thursday. Their resource off the bench: Smith, who takes up space, plays physical and is strong around the basket.
What’s going wrong: In conference games, top reserves Tyler Lamb, Brendan Lane and Anthony Stover combine for only 4.5 points and 5.6 rebounds a game.
What’s going right: Why is Kevin Parrom arguably the best reserve in the Pac-10? Because he is the most efficient. Parrom has the rare stat line of better than 50 percent from the field (52.6 — 71 of 135), 40 percent from three-point range (43.5 — 30 of 69) and almost 80 percent from the free-throw line (79.2, 38 of 48).
What’s going wrong: Williams played 36 minutes against USC in a game when it would have been beneficial for him to sit at times to try to gather himself. But Miller is not comfortable replacing him for an extended stretch with Alex Jacobson and Kyryl Natyazhko. Jacobson and Natyazhko only played a combined three minutes against the Trojans in a game in which the Wildcats could use size and depth against Nikola Vucevic and Alex Stepheson.
Who has the edge?: Arizona. The Wildcats’ top three reserves — Parrom, Jamelle Horne and Jordin Mayes — are more reliable and productive than UCLA’s Smith matched with Lamb and Lane.
Quick poll: Who deserves the Pac-10 Coach of the Year if the ballot was held today? Miller, UCLA’s Ben Howland, Oregon’s Dana Altman, Cal’s Mike Montgomery, USC’s Kevin O’Neill or Washington’s Lorenzo Romar? Howland could come out of nowhere and win the honor if the Bruins beat Arizona today and sweep the Washington schools next week. UCLA is buying into Howland’s defensive demands and nobody has played as dominating as the Bruins in the last six weeks (not even Arizona during an eight-game winning streak). People were actually calling for Howland’s job early this season, especially after UCLA lost 66-57 to Montana at Pauley Pavilion in early December. Advantage: Howland.
Arizona can show the NCAA tournament selection committee that it should be among the top five seeds in a regional if the Wildcats win against an improving UCLA team on the road. The Bruins can prove they belong in the field, which should happen unless they collapse and lose the last three games of the regular season and the first game of the Pac-10 tournament. With the way the Bruins are playing of late, that’s not going to happen. UCLA wins this game in a low-scoring affair 66-61 to keep its regular-season title hopes alive. But the Wildcats will clinch the championship the following week in Tucson by sweeping the Oregon schools and Washington doing them a favor by beating UCLA at home. What’s wrong with celebrating in Tucson?
WildAboutAZCats.com and another partner — SteveRiveraVentures.com — have a promotion this season with Tino’s Pizza in Tucson. During any UA men’s hoops game, order any large pizza (dine-in or carryout) get a discount of $2. Tino’s Pizza was voted as the Best Eastside Pizzeria by the Tucson Weekly last year. If you take advantage of this opportunity at Tino’s save your receipt and mail it to: TINO’S PIZZA / WILDABOUTAZCATS.COM CHALLENGE, c/o Javier Morales, P.O. Box 531418, Henderson, NV 89053 (include your full name, address and phone number). The person who spends the most during this promotion over the UA’s 18-game Pac-10 schedule wins a free Lute Olson-autographed “UA Basketball Vault” book (valued at $50)