Feb. 26, 2011
LOS ANGELES (AP) - UCLA struggled all season to put two solid halves together. The Bruins waited until their last game at historic Pauley Pavilion to do it, helped by a last basket that John Wooden surely had an assist.
Reeves Nelson had a career-high 27 points and 16 rebounds, and the Bruins defeated No. 10 Arizona 71-49 on Saturday to tie the Wildcats for first place in the Pac-10 in the last men's game played in the arena before it closes for renovation.
Fittingly, the late Wooden's great-grandson Tyler Trapani, a walk-on who rides the Bruins' bench, got in the game and scored their final basket.
"It was kind of meant to be," said Tyler Honeycutt, who had 15 points.
Joshua Smith added 17 points for the Bruins (21-8), who share the league's top spot at 12-4 with two games remaining. They have won 12 of 14 after being out of the top 25 all season.
"It's really good we're tied. Our goal is to win the Pac-10 outright," Smith said. "This was one of these games we needed to win to bump our resume with the NCAA tournament."
Derrick Williams scored 15 points and Kyle Fogg had 10 for the Wildcats (23-6), who stumbled through a lost weekend in L.A. They arrived with a two-game lead only to be upset by Southern California on Thursday, when Williams, the league's No. 2 scorer, was held to a season-low eight points.
Then they encountered a UCLA team hellbent on grabbing a share of the Pac-10 crown for itself while leaving Pauley on a winning note in front of Wooden's family, including his son Jim and daughter Nan.
"It's hard when you play in an atmosphere like this, things can easily get away from you," Arizona coach Sean Miller said. "We knew it was going to be a tough weekend. Today we just played against a great team in front of a very good crowd."
UCLA's 11 national championship banners will be packed away while the 46-year-old arena is brought into modern times during a remodeling. The Bruins will play at a location still to be determined before Pauley reopens for the 2012-13 season. The women's team plays their final home game next week.
Jack Haley Jr., whose father Jack starred at UCLA and played in the NBA, airballed a 3-point attempt with 25 seconds to go. Trapani grabbed the ball on the left side and made the layup.
"I'm still kind of baffled at what just happened," he said. "I usually don't get in. For me, it's about being here to get an education and go on in life. I feel like my great-grandpa put me in that spot."
UCLA coach Ben Howland was overcome in the locker room after the game.
"I got some tears in my eyes," he said, pausing and lowering his head. "I was thinking about Coach (Wooden). It was so fitting Tyler hit the shot. It fell right in his hands. There's something going on there, I really believe it."
A sweep would have given Arizona the regular-season title outright. The Wildcats still could have claimed at least a share of it by winning Saturday. Now it comes down to next weekend, when they host the Oregon schools and UCLA hits the road to face the Washington schools.
"Nobody is happy about the loss, but we lost to a really good team," Arizona's Kyryl Natyazhko said. "We have two home games left and we have to get the job done. Every time you play against UCLA it's a big game. We didn't play hard enough to stop them."
UCLA held the Wildcats to a season-low in points; Arizona came in averaging 77.6 - second-best in the Pac-10. The Wildcats shot 21 percent from 3-point range, well off their league-leading 41 percent.
The Bruins gained control of a game that was close early with a 22-2 run spanning halftime. Smith scored nine points despite picking up his third foul in the spurt that ended with UCLA ahead 51-30. Nelson added seven. His rebounds helped the Bruins dominate the boards 40-26.
Leading 29-28, UCLA closed the first half on an 11-2 run while the Wildcats were limited to one field goal over the final 5:03. The Bruins picked up where they left off in the second half, starting out with 11 consecutive points in front of 11,986, the biggest crowd of the season that grew more raucous as the lead increased.
Smith proved to be his usual load in the post, barreling through the Wildcats' defense for layups. He got hit in the eye at the same time he was called for his third foul and sat down.
The Wildcats immediately took advantage, running off 10 straight points to close to 51-40. Fogg and Jamelle Horne hit consecutive 3-pointers.
Arizona scored six straight to get within nine before Smith tipped in Lazeric Jones' missed 3-pointer with 4:02 left. But the Bruins closed the game on another run.
UCLA wore retro jerseys with "Bruins" on the front along with a "JRW" patch in the shape of Wooden's "Pyramid of Success" for the coaching legend who died in June at 99.
Among those attending the final men's game at Pauley were former Wooden assistant Denny Crum, Olympian Rafer Johnson, and Sidney Wicks and Curtis Rowe from the 1971 national title team that was honored at halftime.
|Prelude To March Madness|
The Bruins suffered one defeat in February - a 76-72 overtime-loss to Cal on the road.
They now control their own destiny to win at least a share of the Pac-10 regular season championship.
Here's a look back at UCLA's near-flawless February.