A Player's Program: UCLA (Pac-12) preview

A Player's Program: UCLA (Pac-12) preview

LAS VEGAS (AP) - Arizona hasn't won a Pac-12 tournament title since 2002, and UCLA is looking to keep it that way for a third straight year.

The No. 5 Wildcats look to avenge last year's loss to the Bruins in the conference championship game when they meet Friday night for a spot in another.

Arizona (29-3) has posted the most wins (472) by a Pac-12 team since 1996-97, and it's four tournament titles tie it with UCLA for the most in the conference.

The Wildcats, though, have the Bruins to blame for their drought reaching 12 years, falling 66-64 to UCLA in the 2013 semifinals before losing 75-71 as the top seed in the title game last year.

"We obviously remember that game last year," coach Sean Miller said. "They played really well and they obviously beat us, but you can't look at it as we're going to use it as extra motivation. We've got to take it like we've taken every game this year, and what we say is just play hard and if we play hard against anyone, you know, they're going to have to play really well to beat us."

That hasn't happened lately to the top-seeded Wildcats, who have outscored opponents by an average of 23.1 points during a nine-game winning streak. They've also allowed 36.1 percent shooting, including 30.9 from beyond the arc.

Arizona's stifling defense was key again Thursday, holding California to 34.4 percent from the floor - 4 of 14 from long range - in a 73-51 quarterfinal victory.

Stanley Johnson led the Wildcats with 19 points and seven rebounds. However, the freshman forward missed eight of nine from the floor to match his season low with seven points while grabbing 10 boards in a 57-47 win over UCLA (20-12) on Feb. 21.

Brandon Ashley, who is averaging 17.0 points in the last three games, had five points on 2-of-10 shooting in that matchup, while Arizona's output tied its lowest of the season.

The fourth-seeded Bruins have won four straight since facing the Wildcats, averaging 85.3 points on 54.4 percent shooting, including 45.3 from long range.

They were even better Thursday, connecting on 60.3 percent overall and 12 of 20 3-point attempts while routing Southern California 96-70.

Isaac Hamilton led the way with a career-high 36 points in an inspirational performance that came the week his grandmother died. The sophomore guard had three more points than his total from the previous four games, including two at Arizona.

"For him to have a game like this on the heels of her passing, that's a pretty special situation to be in," coach Steve Alford said.

Alford may need another strong effort from Hamilton since it's unclear if forward Kevin Looney will be available after suffering a facial injury Thursday. The freshman averages 12.1 points and leads the team with 9.3 rebounds.

Bryce Alford is looking to improve upon his seven points Thursday after scoring 23 in an 85-74 win over the Trojans in the regular-season finale March 4. The guard had 22 versus Arizona last month.

The winner will face No. 17 Utah or Oregon on Saturday for the championship.

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