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UCLA moves into first-place tie in the Pac-12, upends Arizona

Mar 2, 2013, 11:51 PM EDT

Arizona v UCLA Getty Images

After everything that UCLA has been through this season — the transfers, the head-scratching upsets, the talk of Ben Howland’s job security, the NCAA investigations — the Bruins now sit just two games away from a share of the Pac-12’s regular season title.

Thanks to a 74-69 win over No. 11 Arizona that wasn’t as close as the final score would indicate, UCLA has pulled into a tie with No. 24 Oregon for first place in the conference with just two games left. The Bruins will visit the two Washington school, while the Ducks have to go on the road to take on Colorado and Utah.

Think about that.

There were people that were wondering whether or not Howland would make it past the turn of the calendar after the Bruins lost to Cal Poly at home, blowing an 18 point lead. Unless Howland leaves on his own, I find it hard to believe that he won’t be coaching at UCLA next season.

It helps that the Bruins seem to be peaking at the right time.

After an ugly stretch where UCLA lost three out of four, the Bruins have won six of their last seven games, including their last four. That includes wins at Stanford and streaking USC, as well as this week’s homestand against the Arizona schools.

UCLA still has flaws, with the most obvious being their lack of attention to detail on the defensive end of the floor. But they’ve gotten better at getting stops, which is part of the reason they’re streaking.

Larry Drew II has morphed into one of the best point guards in the country. Shabazz Muhammad and Jordan Adams are taking turns as UCLA’s go-to scorer. Kyle Anderson has morphed into a glue-guy, an all-around contributor that cleans the glass and provides Howland with a second-playmaker. Throw in the mid-range jump-shooting of the Wear twins, and the Bruins have the makeup of a team with no middle-ground.

They have the talent to make a run to the second weekend, maybe farther.

But there wouldn’t be a soul that’s surprised if they get upended in the first round.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

  1. manchestermiracle - Mar 3, 2013 at 12:31 AM

    It was actually closer than the final score would indicate. Like, three points in the final minute with Arizona in possession. UCLA outplayed the Wildcats most of the game and were out in front by as much as 15, but Drew made two of his three total turnovers in the last two minutes and the ‘Cats drained consecutive three-pointers to make it close. Too close.

    The Bruins have weak spots, but the most glaring might be rebounding. In particular they give up way too many offensive rebounds and second-chance shots. If they had really “cleaned the glass” they would have won going away. The defense is (slowly) coming around and is definitely improved from early in the season, but they have no real inside presence.

    Other than Muhammad, and occasionally Adams, getting lobs for dunks they mostly rely on Drew driving and kicking to the Wears or perhaps Anderson getting mid-range jumpers. They can’t/don’t/won’t pound it inside and teams without that ability often don’t go far in the tournament.

  2. omniusprime - Mar 3, 2013 at 8:46 AM

    Nice to see UCLA beat #11 Arizona and still be in contention for the Pac-12 title this late in the season. A big improvement over past years. Hopefully they can do some damage during March Madness.

    Go Bruins!!!

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