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PAC-12 supremacy is back on the line tonight when #3 UCLA returns the trip to #7 Arizona. The Wildcats opened as a big favorite, popping in now at -6.5 points. Whew! It makes some sense. The fear was leading scorer Johnny Juzang would miss the game. He’s just been cleared to return. Also, Jamie Jaquez Jr. looks like a game-time decision (ankle) and Jaylen Clark is doubtful.
Nine days ago these two met in the newly-allowed to be packed Pauley Pavilion and the Bruins took control of the Wildcats from the onset. In the game, Arizona helped to create a big hole for themselves by going 7-of-28 from deep. That’s a smooth 25%. It wasn’t much better on the rest of the court, overall shooting 30.7% while being blocked 8 times in the game. Just a bad, bad night and they were doing this on just one day’s rest. However, on four days rest, Arizona then shot 3-of-23 from three against Arizona State on Saturday and even though they survived to tell the tale, they were far from covering the 21.5-point spread.
Arizona’s offense has hit a a massive skid. Did you know they haven’t shot this poorly in back-to-back games in 18 years? True story, they’ve shot below 33 percent in consecutive games and it ain’t been that bad in a long time. Super stud Bennedict Mathurin was just 5-of-22 against UCLA and 10-of-38 is these last two games. Kerr Krissa was an astounding 0-of-12 from the field against UCLA and then followed it up with a 2-of-8 performance against Arizona State. Chilly.
UCLA beat a couple other PAC-12 California schools by 24 and 23 respectively since the Arizona game but did so without Johnny Juzang who took a COVID test despite being asymptomatic and tested positive. His status is is mentioned before is reported as cleared to return to play. Jaylen Clark, an important wing player, has missed three straight games because of concussion protocols and he’s likely out. Jaime Jaquez is nursing an ankle injury he suffered after only playing seven minutes against Stanford on Saturday and is a game-time decision. It’s still impressive to blossom without those guys recently.
The best possible news for UCLA is that despite missing two key players for 2 of the last three games and another for a large chunk of their most recent contest, they are killing it defensively. Against Arizona they forced 14 turnovers. Against California they grabbed 14 steals. Against Stanford, the Bruins forced 22 turnovers and held the Cardinal to 3-of-20 from 3-point range. In those three games, and the three before UCLA has held it’s last six opponents to 57.8 points. It shouldn’t be a shocker to know they are unbeaten in those games.
I am very mindful of the health of Arizona’s Azuolas Tubelis. He suffered a “high ankle sprain of sorts” against Stanford but only missed one game but when he returned for the last UCLA game, he only played 15 minutes, but was effective scoring eight points and corralling six rebounds. He played 22 minutes on Saturday but only went for six-and-six. High ankle sprains can linger for awhile especially without rest. on Jan. 20 at Stanford, but said during his radio show Monday night that it was a “high ankle sprain of sorts.”
Defense travels. I cannot stress how much I believe in that and if the other team doesn’t score as much, you don’t have to either to keep things close. Arizona is in a better place to win, literally, with the McKale Center being sold out but I think UCLA is more than capable of holding their own. Tonight, we ride with the Bruins +6.5 in what I think will be a fabulous game.
One CommentLeave a Reply
76-66 AZ sweet lol