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Arizona Sweeps UCLA

Fogg Propels Cats Past Bruins

By Lance Epstein

TUCSON, Ariz— In what used to be the premiere game on the west coast, the two former kings of the Pac-10 conference squared off in the McKale Center Thursday night. As Arizona Wildcats used the second half heroics of sophomore guard Kyle Fogg to top the UCLA Bruins 78-73.

"I had no idea I was gunnin' like that till the end," Fogg said after drilling seven three-pointers against UCLA.

The win by Arizona only puts them one game over .500 at 15-14 and 9-8 in the Pac-10. For the Wildcats however, it marks the first sweep of the Bruins since Ben Howland inaugural season at UCLA.

Even if the game only slightly improves the Wildcats record, UA Head Coach Sean Miller came out elated about the victory over the archrival Bruins.

"I think tonight was really our season's best win,” Miller said. “Not because we beat UCLA, who is a very good team, but because of how we beat them. It's very difficult to come back from being down by 15 in the second half. It takes a group of players all playing with a lot of emotion.

“We made a lot of big shots, and though we struggled in defense in the first half, there was this eight to ten minute stretch in the second half where I think our defense worked harder than they have all season. In the first half, UCLA was 15 of 25, and in the second they were only 10 of 30. They definitely made a lot better shots in the first half.”

Considering Arizona only had the lead for a total of three minutes and nineteen seconds for the entire game, it might indeed be the best win of the season for the gritty Wildcats. In fact, the Wildcats did not even have a lead until 3:19 left in the game.

To begin the contest, the young Wildcat could not defend Bruins forward Nikola Dragovic, as he helped the Bruins to an early 14-7 lead. Even bleaker for the Cats was UCLA was putting on a clinic in making six-of-their-first-nine shots.

After finding themselves in a seven-point deficit, the Wildcats responded with their own 6-0 run. The run was capped off when freshman forward Solomon Hill stole the ball away, made the layup and was fouled.

Unfortunately, for the Wildcats he could not connect on the free throw and neither could the rest of the team as they bricked four of its first six free throws.

With six minutes left in the first half and in a two-point game at 20-18, the wheels fell off completely for the Wildcats’ defense. UCLA exploded for a 10-2 run with Tyler Honeycutt and Michael Roll combining for nine of those 10 Bruins points.

As the clock ran out on the first half, Arizona found itself being down by 10 points at 39-29. What was more frightful then being down 10 in your own building against a below average Bruins team, was shooting 8-of-15 from the free throw line, committing as many turnovers as shots made (9) and senior point guard Nic Wise having a whopping zero points.

"We just knew we didn't want to go out with a loss," Lamont Momo Jones said. "We weren't playing like ourselves in the first half of the game. We were lackadaisical.”

More worrisome was while the Wildcats struggled to throw the rock into the ocean shooting 33 percent, the Bruins shot the lights out at 60 percent. Additionally UA’s star forward Derrick Williams was in foul trouble.

In the same way as first half started, UCLA kept adding on the already sizable lead; as they extended their lead to 14 at the first TV timeout. As great as the Bruins looked for the first 25 minutes, the Wildcats looked equally as impressive the last 15 minutes of the game.

Once a 14-point discrepancy at 50-36 became a 58-58 tie as Momo Jones and Kyle Fogg sparked the Wildcats to a 22-8 run. During the offensive outburst, Fogg drained three of his five second half three pointers (made 7-of-10 for the game). Whereas his counterpart Jones chipped in nine points and five of which came from the free throw line.

UA’s first tie of the ballgame came at 7:54 of the second half, but was short lived as Roll converted on five of his 21 points over the next two minutes. It appeared as though the Bruins were not going to relinquish their lead until Fogg nailed his seventh three pointers with 5:06 left to tie the game at 63.

After Honeycutt connected on one of two free throws to give UCLA a 64-63, he then fouled Fogg on a drive to the basket. Fogg had the opportunity to give Arizona its first lead of the game at 3:19 of the second half.

Stepping to the line, Fogg connected on the first free throw attempt to match his career high at 25 points (which was at UCLA back in January). Then Fogg sunk the second free throw to set his new career high at 26 points.

Then on the subsequent possession UCLA’s Dragovic missed a jump shot. Immediately following the missed UCLA opportunity, the forgotten man of the evening, Wise, broke the Bruins back.

Momo penetrated the lane, pulling the defender away from Wise and dished out to a wide-open Wise, who swished home a three to expand the Arizona lead to 68-64 with less than three minutes to play.

"Every shot I took went in and out,” Wise said about his first half shooting slump. “They felt good, they just weren't falling, so I came out in the second half determined to play better. These are my last home games, so I didn't want to go out like that."

The next time down the floor, Wise converted one of two free throws to give Arizona its biggest lead of the game at five with 2:01 left.

UCLA did not go silently however, they demonstrated their resilience by cutting the once five point Arizona lead to just two at 72-70 with 14 seconds left. In a short span, the once frantic McKale Center crowd was now sitting on pins and needles.

That was until UCLA’s Dragovic was called for an intentional foul immediately after trimming the lead to two. The intentional was called because he fouled Williams before the ball was inbounded, which is an automatic intentional foul.

Williams made both free throws to make the lead four and Arizona received the ball out of bounce. Eventually, Wise sealed the deal with four made free throws down the stretch and topped off his 12 point second half outburst.

For the second consecutive game, the Wildcats showed the heart and toughness that skyrocketed them to the top of the Pac-10 standings midway through the Pac-10 season. In the last two games, a sluggish first half team begun to sizzle in the second half even when facing double digit deficits.

Even though Wise contributed 12 big second half points, it was the young, up and coming players that were the difference makers. Soon to be Pac-10 freshman of the year, Derrick Williams finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds while playing on a gimpy left quad.

Momo Jones created plays, dazzled with his passes, made wise decisions at the point and finished matching his career high from last week at Stanford with 16 points. Miller has seen his immature and wildly inconsistent guard come of age over the past couple of games.

“He (Jones) had a lot of great moments, making some key threes, getting to the free throw line, and passing,” Miller said. “He did a really great job at moving the ball, and that's what we need.”

The obvious star of the game was Kyle Fogg who played out of his mind. Fogg exhibited the brilliance that fans came to expected of him last year. He played within himself and did not force anything. His shot selection was great as he missed only four shots all game and even those were good looks.

"Kyle was terrific tonight,” Miller said. “Seven of ten from three, three of four from free throws, there was no way we could have won without him. He definitely was playing at an all Pac-10 level, and it's great to see.”

More importantly Fogg provides the Wildcats another dimension. He can offer a threat on the perimeter with long-range ability and his ability to extend defenses.

Despite all that, the player that Arizona needs to step his game up the most in order to pull off an improvable Pac-10 tournament run is Jamelle Horne. Miller decided to utilize his lengthy and ultra athletic small forward off the bench and start Brandon Lavender in his spot.

For the first time all year, Miller might have pulled the right strings with bring him off the bench. Horne finished with a very quiet but extremely impressive seven points and eight-rebound game. No truer words came out of Miller’s mouth during his press conference than when he spoke about Horne.

“Jamelle had seven defensive rebounds tonight, and that is really what we need to see from him," Miller said.

If Arizona expects to beat the Cal’s, ASU’s and Washington’s in the Pac-10 tourney, Horne has to be aggressive on the boards and be a disruptive on the defensive end. Those three favorites to win the tournament have athletic forwards in the mold of Horne that he will be asked to shut down.

Can Horne accomplish that job? Well, if he comes out with passion to play like last night there is no doubt. So maybe the move to the bench has awoken a sleeping giant.

There is only one final home game before the Pac-10 tourney starts and Arizona has built some momentum based off their relentlessness and determination. That fight the Cats have finally may have arrived at the perfect time.

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