Los Angeles, CA (SportsNetwork.com) - The top-ranked Arizona Wildcats put their flawless record in jeopardy on Thursday evening, as the take on the dangerous UCLA Bruins in a Pac-12 showdown at Pauley Pavilion.
Sean Miller's Wildcats have ascended the polls thanks to running the table this season, with marquee victories over the likes of San Diego State, Duke and Michigan. Arizona made it 15 straight wins with home wins over Washington State (60-25) and Washington (71-62) to begin league play last week.
Steve Alford's Bruins are off to a strong start in their own right, winning 12 of their first 14 games this season. UCLA enters this contest with a three- game win streak in tow after opening league action last week with a 107-73 rout of crosstown rival USC. The Bruins are a perfect 10-0 at Pauley Pavilion this season.
The Bruins hold a 52-37 advantage in the all-time series with Arizona and have won the last three meetings. UCLA holds a 35-13 advantage in games played in Los Angeles.
The Huskies hung around for a while, but Arizona was able to pull away late to earn the nine-point win in Tucson last weekend. Junior guard Nick Johnson led the way with a game-high 24 points, while freshman forward Aaron Gordon dominated up front, recording a double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds. Arizona didn't shoot the ball particularly well (.421), but made up for it by outscoring Washington 21-10 at the free-throw line.
The Wildcats are averaging a modest 74.9 ppg but are doing so on a healthy .485 shooting. The numbers are magnified by the fact the team plays shutdown defense, holding foes to a meager 54.9 ppg, while limiting opponents to just .366 shooting overall, including .282 from 3-point range. The Wildcats are also dominating play on the boards and enter this game with a gaudy +12.1 rebounding margin. Johnson headlines the offensive weapons on the team, pouring in 16.0 ppg. Gordon is next in the scoring column at 12.4 ppg and leads the team in rebounding (8.0 rpg). A potent frontline is completed by forward Brandon Ashley (11.9 ppg, 6.8 rpg) and center Kaleb Tarczewski (9.9 ppg, 6.5 rpg).
The Wildcats will need to be at the top of their game defensively, as they well be tested by the explosive Bruins in this game. UCLA comes into this contest averaging 87.1 ppg (eighth nationally), while shooting an impressive .527 from the floor overall (second nationally). Jordan Adams leads a quartet of double-digit scorers for UCLA with 18.7 ppg. He is followed by Kyle Anderson, who is both a potent scorer in his own right (15.1 ppg) and productive rebounder (8.9 rpg). Zach LaVine (12.4 ppg) does his work off the bench, with Norman Powell (11.0 ppg) rounding out the top threats on the roster.
The Bruins were on fire against rival USC last time out, rolling up 107 points, the most in a regular season conference game for UCLA since 1987. Anderson led the way with a double-double of 23 points and 12 rebounds. Adams hit five 3-pointers and poured in 21 points, while Bryce Alford added a season-high 20 points of his own. LaVine chipped in 16 points for UCLA, which shot a sterling .577 from the field, including an 11-o-23 effort from behind the arc.