UCLA (25-3, 12-3) at Arizona (26-3, 15-1)
When: Saturday, February 25th 2017
Where: McKale Center, Tuscon, AZ
Time: 8:15 ET | TV: ESPN
The UCLA Bruins and Arizona Wildcats meet in a key Pac-12 matchup Saturday night in Tuscon as top 5 teams in the country. This is the second meeting of the season with Arizona winning 96-85 in Pauley Pavilion earlier this year. That game featured the season debut for Arizona’s Allonzo Trier, who was suspended the first 19 games for testing positive for a banned substance. Trier scored 12 points off the bench in that game, but he’s now a full-time starter and playing solid basketball. The sophomore forward scored a season-high 25 points Thursday in a 90-77 win over USC and is 8-for-11 from 3-point range in his last two games. Lauri Markkanen had a solid game in the first meeting, finishing with 18 points and seven rebounds and leads the team in scoring (15.6) and rebounding (7.5). Markkanen has broken out of a mini-slump to start the month when he scored in single digits in four straight games, but he’s back to averaging 18.7 points and 10.3 rebounds in the last three contests. Dusan Ristic came off the bench against USC after missing the previous game with an ankle injury, but he’s expected to return to the starting lineup against the Bruins. Arizona enters the weekend with a one-game lead over No. 7 Oregon for the top spot in the Pac-12 standings and 2.5 games up on third-place UCLA, which has three games left.
The Bruins figure to counter Arizona’s speedy guard play with what they’ve been doing all season with a lot of ball movement and high-percentage shooting. The Bruins average a nation-leading 21.9 assists per game, which would be the highest average of any Division I team since UNLV averaged 24.7 for the 1990-91 season. T.J. Leaf didn’t play well in the first game against the Wildcats, finishing with 12 points and three rebounds, but the team’s leading scorer (17.0) and rebounder (8.8) looks to have a better game this time around. The other highly touted freshman for the Bruins, point guard Lonzo Ball, is coming off a season-low four points Thursday in an 87-75 win against Arizona State and rolled his ankle during the first half, briefly causing him to return to the locker room. Ball still averages 15.0 points a game and 7.5 assists despite his poor effort on Thursday. Bryce Alford needs three 3-pointers to break his own school record of 93 set during the 2014-15 season. UCLA has scored at least 100 points nine times this season, the most since the 1971-72 team did it 12 times. UCLA will play at home to the Washington schools to finish up the regular season next week.
This should be a terrific game, but Arizona really matches up well against the Bruins as we saw in the first meeting. Trier is playing well and makes this team a legitimate threat to reach the Final Four. I’ll take the Wildcats tonight.
Pick: Arizona -1.5
HEAD TO HEAD
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