Las Vegas, NV – Tommy Lloyd and the Arizona Wildcats were predicted to finish fourth in the Pac-12 during preseason. On Saturday night, they lifted the conference tournament trophy with an 84-76 win against the UCLA Bruins at T-Mobile Arena.
Before being named the Arizona men’s basketball head coach in 2021, Lloyd was an assistant at Gonzaga for 22 seasons. He has certainly proven himself.
“My only objective has been to pour into these guys everything I got,” Lloyd said. “That’s how I’ve attacked it on a daily basis.”
Arizona entered the game ranked No. 2 in the nation, while the Bruins were No. 13. It’s been an exciting season for the Wildcats, and Arizona fans were easily found all over Las Vegas.
It seemed like the team fed off that energy. The Wildcats found an early 6-2 lead while the Bruins offense was still getting warmed up. UCLA started 2-of-7 from the field. By the first media timeout, It was a 10-4 lead for Arizona.
The Bruins woke up and the game was tied at 16 points at the 10:25 mark. UCLA was up by three with 6:30 remaining in the first period. Redshirt senior center Myles Johnson tried to extend the lead but Arizona’s redshirt sophomore center Oumar Ballo blocked the shot. That defense turned into offense and Arizona’s Adama Bal got a three-pointer.
Sophomore forward Azuolas Tubelis hit the Bruins with a dunk in Arizona’s last possession of the first half, but junior guard Johnny Juzang went on to register a three-pointer to give UCLA a 40-35 advantage at halftime.
The Bruins came out strong after the break and found a 12-point lead three minutes into the second period. However, the Wildcats came back with a vengeance.
Arizona had a 61-58 lead with nine minutes remaining and UCLA was forced to call a timeout to try to stop the momentum. At this point, the Wildcats were outshooting the Bruins 64.3 % to 31.6% percent in the second period. After the timeout, UCLA’s Jules Bernard attempted a three-point shot that got blocked by Pelle Larsson.
The highlight of the game for Arizona was an exclamation mark type of dunk by Dalen Terry with 5:45 remaining on the clock.
Arizona finished the night shooting at 52% from the field and 50% from beyond the arc. The Wildcats beat the Bruins in the paint 40-32.
Sophomore guard/forward Bennedict Mathurin led the winning offense with 27 points and seven assists. Terry contributed with 15 points and another seven assists, while Christian Koloko registered a double of 13 points and 10 rebounds.
“These games are long and we’re a team that makes runs,” Lloyd said. “I’m always like, ‘Hang in there, hang in there, we could be a possession or two away from a run.’ We did a good job of hanging in there.”
With Saturday’s win, Wildcats have likely earned their place as a No. 1 seed for the NCAA Tournament on Selection Sunday.