Arizona should be looking for payback when the top-ranked Wildcats visit No. 25 UCLA for a Pac-12 game Thursday night. Arizona was swept in three games against the Bruins last season, but UCLA hardly had a chance to celebrate its final victory as Jordan Adams suffered a season-ending foot injury on the final play of the conference tournament semifinal. Adams is back and looking better than ever, leading the Bruins in scoring at 18.7 points and ranking third in the nation in steals at 3.5.
The Bruins were led last season by the freshmen trio of Adams, Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson and this year it’s Arizona that has put a lot on the shoulders of freshman forward Aaron Gordon. He has passed many of the tests so far, averaging 12.8 points and eight rebounds while giving the Wildcats an edge on defense they lacked last season. Muhammad has moved on to the professional ranks, but Anderson is still with the Bruins and the 6-9 swingman is averaging 15.1 points, 8.9 rebounds and 6.6 assists, numbers that have NBA scouts drooling at his potential.
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ABOUT ARIZONA (15-0, 2-0 Pac-12): Nick Johnson hasn’t had much individual success in his previous six games against the Bruins, shooting 34.5 percent from the floor, compared to 42.6 for his career. The leading scorer for the Wildcats could be in line for a breakout game after scoring a career-high 24 points in Saturday’s nine-point victory against Washington, including six in the final 3:25 after the Huskies had cut the deficit to two. Gabe York watched all three UCLA games from the bench last season but now the sophomore guard from Southern California is in the rotation, averaging 7.2 points in 19.2 minutes and should be pumped for his first action against the Bruins.
ABOUT UCLA (12-2, 1-0): The freshmen to watch for the Bruins this season are backup guards Zach LaVine, who has risen to third on the team in scoring (12.4), and Bryce Alford, who is coming off a season-high 20 points in Sunday’s blowout win against USC to move up to fifth (7.8). They’ve taken the second- and third-most 3-pointers on the team behind Adams, with LaVine shooting 45.3 percent and Alford at 48.8. If the Bruins weren’t so deep in the backcourt with Adams, Anderson and junior Norman Powell, the freshmen would be deserving of a starting spot.
1. UCLA is 14-6 against Arizona since the start of the 2005-06 season.
2. Arizona has outrebounded its opponent in every game this season.
3. The Wildcats have limited their opponents to 28.2 percent from beyond the arc this season.
PREDICTION: UCLA 78, Arizona 75