Adams’ 3-pointer leads UCLA to 75-71 upset of No. 4 Arizona
LAS VEGAS — UCLA guard Jordan Adams has a way of beating Arizona in the Pac-12 tournament.
This time, he did it without hurting himself.
Adams had a team-high 24 points last season as the Bruins beat the Wildcats in the conference tournament semifinals, although he suffered a broken foot on the final play, derailing the team’s postseason chances.
On Saturday afternoon at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, Adams hit the key shot in a tense, frenetic game — an off-balance 3-pointer with 45 seconds left — as UCLA won the tournament championship with a 75-71 victory over fourth-ranked Arizona.
Adams wasn’t thinking about last season, though. He was thinking of UCLA’s home loss to Arizona earlier this year.
“In the huddle, coach drew it up,” Adams said. “It reminded me back to the day when we played them at Pauley Pavilion. I missed that shot in and out, and that shot haunted me. I always told myself if I got another chance, I would knock it down. And coach trusted me to shoot it.”
UCLA (26-8) surges into the NCAA Tournament, beating a hot Oregon team by 19 points, routing Stanford by 25 and then upsetting Arizona. The Wildcats (30-4) are still likely to be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament in the West Regional.
“We know we’re one of the best teams in the country, and that’s how we’re going to play,” said Arizona forward Aaron Gordon. “Today doesn’t change anything.”
UCLA 6-foot-9 point guard Kyle Anderson had 21 points, 15 rebounds and five assists, often working inside for baskets and drawing fouls. Anderson, who made 10 of 14 free throw attempts, was selected the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.
“I mean, seriously, 21, 15 and 5 from your point guard?” UCLA coach Steve Alford said. “He’s an amazing player, and he’s proven it all year long. He’s very unique. ... He’s a nightmare to match up with.”
Anderson tied the score at 68 by making two free throws with 3:59 left, and then the teams went scoreless for more than three minutes amid a flurry of missed shots and turnovers.
After Adams broke the deadlock, Gordon put up an airball 3-pointer from the corner on the ensuing possession.
“I wish I could have that shot back,” Gordon said. “If I shot it again, I guarantee it would go in.”
Anderson was fouled with 20 seconds left and missed the front end of a 1-and-1, keeping it a one-possession game. But the Wildcats could not answer with two chances. Guard Nick Johnson’s 3-pointer was blocked, with the ball going to guard Gabe York, who also missed from behind the arc.
UCLA forward David Wear and guard Norman Powell each made a pair of free throws in the final 4.9 seconds.
The free-throw line was a key area. UCLA hit 21 of 25 free throws. Arizona was 6 of 16 from the line and missed the front end of two late 1-and-1s with the score tied.
“It’s tough to win when you go 6 for 16 from the line,” said Arizona coach Sean Miller. “If we would have shot better from the free-throw line, we’d have been in the winner’s circle. There is not a doubt in my mind about that.”
Adams had 19 points for UCLA. Powell added 15.
“I’ve got news for whoever draws them in the NCAA Tournament: Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams, good luck,” Miller said. “Those two guys are fantastic players.”
Johnson led Arizona with 22 points. Center Kaleb Tarczewski scored 12 points. Gordon had 11 points, eight rebounds and eight assists but was 2 of 8 from the line.
UCLA led by 11 on two occasions in the first half thanks to its torrid shooting — 58.1 percent — against one of the best defenses in the country. The Bruins took a 43-40 lead into halftime, surpassing the point total that Utah had for the entire game against Arizona on Thursday (39) and matching Colorado’s output (43) on Friday.
The second half featured seven ties and eight lead changes.
“We’ve got an edge to us now, which is a lot of fun,” Alford said. “To win a championship means a great deal.”
NOTES: Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott announced before the game that the conference will send a men’s all-star team to China this summer. The team, led by Oregon State coach Craig Robinson, will feature one player from each team. ... Scott also announced that the Pac-12 will play a regular-season game in China on Nov. 14, 2015, sending Washington to face the University of Texas. ... Arizona junior G Nick Johnson passed Link Richmond (1,246 points) and moved into 28th place on the school’s career scoring chart. ... The all-tournament team, with UCLA PG Kyle Anderson as the Most Outstanding Player: Johnson, Arizona F Aaron Gordon, Colorado G Askia Booker, Oregon G Joseph Young and Stanford G Chasson Randle. ... UCLA and Arizona are tied for the most Pac-12 tournament titles with four.