TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Shabazz Muhammad scored 23 points, Jordan Adams added 15 and UCLA rode a dominating start to an 84-73 win over No. 6 Arizona on Thursday night.
The Pac-12’s top scoring and shooting team, UCLA (16-4, 6-1) tried to turn Arizona’s whiteout into a blowout, racing to a 16-point lead in the game’s first seven minutes. Even when Arizona chipped away at the lead, bringing the all-in-white crowd at the McKale Center to life, the Bruins kept their composure to pick up a huge road win.
David Wear added 15 points and eight rebounds for UCLA.
Arizona (16-2, 4-12) got off to a miserable start at both ends and never fully recovered, pulling no closer than four points after digging a huge opening hole.
Nick Johnson had 23 points, Mark Lyons added 16 and Solomon Hill 13 for the Wildcats, who went 5 for 24 from 3-point range.
Heading in, this was one of the most anticipated games of the Pac-12 season, two of the conference’s most talented teams that score in bunches and have some of the best freshmen anywhere.
Arizona’s freshmen big men — Kaleb Tarczewski, Brandon Ashley and Grant Jerrett — have been solid in their first season in the desert, though they have been able to fall back on Arizona’s veterans when things have gotten tight.
After opening with 14 straight wins, the Wildcats’ luck in pulling out tight games ran out with a 70-66 road loss to Oregon on Jan. 10. They responded with a pair of impressive wins, beating Oregon State and Arizona State both by double digits.
UCLA had some rough patches early in the season, losing to Cal Poly and needing overtime to beat UC Irvine, along with Tyler Lamb and Joshua Smith transferring from the program.
The Bruins rounded back into form after losing to San Diego State on Dec. 1, winning 10 straight games before losing to No. 16 Oregon on Saturday.
UCLA’s freshmen — Muhammad, Adams and Kyle Anderson — handled a big road test in a win over Colorado two weeks ago, but the McKale Center and all those rowdy fans wearing white T-shirts and screaming at them.
No problem for these Bruins, young and old.
Confident and crisp on offense, UCLA made eight of its first 12 shots, racing out to a 19-3 lead. Arizona helped out by clanging shot after shot, opening 1 for 13, with most of those around the rim.
The Wildcats were getting decent shots, though, and a few started to fall as they chipped away at the lead.
Arizona climbed its shooting percentage up to 31 percent (11 for 25) by halftime, but had trouble stopping the Bruins, who went 19 for 34 from the floor for a 40-30 lead. Muhammad led the way with 11 points.
Even without Travis Wear, who sat out the second half with a head injury after scoring six points in the first, UCLA maintained its composure.
Scoring on the break, inside and on tough drives to the basket, the Bruins kept dropping in shots, pushing the lead to 55-41 in the first seven minutes of the second half.
Arizona wasn’t quite done, though.
Sparked by Johnson’s three-point play, the Wildcats scored the next 10 points to get within four and crank up the volume in the McKale Center.
The Bruins made sure they didn’t get any closer.
Tony Parker scored on a three-point play, Muhammad dropped in a 3-pointer and UCLA pushed the lead up to 70-60 with just over four minutes left.
Arizona kept clanging from the perimeter and the Bruins made the shots and free throws when they needed to, pulling out their biggest road win of the season.