Bruins beat Arizona to earn spot in Pac-12 title game
LAS VEGAS — Jordan Adams carried UCLA to the Pac-12 men’s basketball tournament final, but the freshman guard won’t play in the championship game Saturday.
He scored 24 points to lead the top-seeded Bruins to a 66-64 victory over fourth-seeded Arizona on Friday, but on the final play Adams broke his right foot and is out for postseason.
UCLA coach Ben Howland seemed stunned when he was told the details during the postgame news conference.
Senior point guard Larry Drew II cried inside the cramped, makeshift locker room at the MGM Grand Garden Arena while several UCLA players huddled together and talked in hushed tones.
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Rarely has a victory so big felt like a devastating loss.
No. 21-ranked UCLA advanced to the Pac-12 title game for the first time in five years. The Bruins will meet Oregon and are looking to become the first team to win the regular-season championship and the tournament title in the same season since they did it in 2008. However, they’ll have to do it without Adams.
The absence of the 6-foot-5 guard hurts UCLA in so many ways. He leads the team in steals (67), is second in scoring average (15.2) and third in assists (54).
He’s also a clutch performer who took over the semifinal while Arizona handcuffed UCLA’s stars.
Shabazz Muhammad, the Pac-12’s co-freshman of the year, and Travis Wear each had 11 points for UCLA. Kyle Anderson, who was selected to the conference’s all-freshman team, added 10 while Drew, a first-team Pac-12 selection, was scoreless.
Howland questioned how Adams was shut out from conference honors. After the game, many others wondered the same thing.
Thursday, Adams scored 18 points while spearheading another UCLA comeback, a 80-75 victory over Arizona State. The Bruins trailed by 15 points with 16:42 left in that game.
This time, they were down 11 points at 49-38 with 10:24 left when Adams began the charge with a pair of free throws.
Arizona led 56-54 when Wildcats coach Sean Miller picked up a technical for protesting a call. Adams tied it with two free throws.
The Wildcats regained the lead on their next possession, and then Adams countered with a jumper.
On UCLA’s final possession, he misfired a three-pointer, but Anderson rebounded the miss and scored on a putback with 23 seconds left.
Arizona had one last chance, but Solomon Hill’s 17-foot jumper bounced out and a putback rolled off.
The Wildcats (25-7) received 15 points from Brandon Ashley while Mark Lyons had 13 and Nick Johnson and Hill each had 10. Kaleb Tarczewski added 13 rebounds.
Miller took the blame for the defeat.
“If you’re the coach of a team and you get a technical in this type of situation under four minutes, that’s unacceptable. He made both free throws, hence the difference in the game.”
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or firstname.lastname@example.org