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February 25, 2012

Wildcats outlast Bruins despite foul-shooting woes

Playing in his final home game, Arizona senior Kyle Fogg did everything he could not to lose - and at the same time nearly cost the Wildcats the game Saturday afternoon.

The guard scored 16 of his game high-tying 20 points in the second half - including eight straight points at one stretch - as UA outlasted UCLA, 65-63, in front of 14,724 at McKale Center. It was the fifth-largest crowd in the venue's history.

"It was one game I will never forget. It was a good battle," said Fogg, who missed two free throws in the final 12 seconds with a chance to ice the game. He admitted that he was feeling the pressure "a little bit" down the stretch.

Fellow senior Jesse Perry finished with 16 points and eight rebounds for the Wildcats (21-9, 12-5 Pac-12 Conference), who shot 45.5 percent (10 of 22) in the second half.

After a Fogg 3-pointer gave the 'Cats a six-point lead with 53 seconds left, a comedy of errors broke out between both teams.

UCLA guard Tyler Lamb drilled a jump shot to cut the deficit to 63-59 and Fogg fired an errant pass to give the Bruins (16-13, 9-7 Pac-12) the ball back with 36 seconds to play. But on the ensuing possession, Lamb dribbled the ball off his foot and out of bounds.

At the free-throw line, Wildcats junior forward Solomon Hill missed a pair of free throws, and UCLA center Josh Smith capitalized by making a pair from the foul line to cut the deficit to 63-61 with 12 seconds remaining.

After Josiah Turner barely avoided a five-second violation, Fogg went back to the line where he missed the first attempt but converted the second shot.

Bruins guard Jerime Anderson, who finished with a team-high 20 points, then sank a pair of free throws to cut the deficit to 64-63. After another split from Fogg, Anderson missed a potential game-tying jumper as time expired.

"We were looking for Jerime," UCLA head coach Ben Howland said. "It had worked earlier. We were going to fake the handoff and it just wasn't there."

The Bruins converted just 11 of 18 free throws while the 'Cats converted 23 of 32 from the line.

After the game, UA head coach Sean Miller said that he elected to engage in the free-throw shooting contest down the stretch.

"I don't want a team to make a 3 to tie the game against us," Miller said. "I want to lose the other way - and we almost did - but that's our philosophy."

And that was pretty close to how most of the second half played out as the teams traded the lead eight times after halftime.

With UCLA clinging to a 47-46 lead, Lamb banked in a 3-pointer on a broken play with 6:31 to play as the shot clock was expiring. Miller said it was those types of plays - similar to one earlier in the season against Washington - that had contributed to losses not too long ago.

"There's two shots that have gone in this year at McKale," Miller said. "(Washington guard) Tony Wroten made one from 47 feet that banked in that, if you look at, could've been the difference in that game. And Tyler Lamb did the exact same thing.

"You could play five seasons and not have a ball go in like that. Two went in against us. When that happens, you start to say, 'Well, maybe it's not our day.' But we were resilient, we stayed together, we kept playing hard."

A 9-2 run capped by an uncontested Anderson layup gave UCLA a 45-39 lead with 10:09 to play. But Fogg answered with a 3-pointer in what Miller called a turning point in the game.

"I wanted to give the guys energy," Fogg said. "We made good baskets and fed off the energy. We picked it up a notch."

Neither team took care of the ball particularly well, combining for 16 of the game's 29 turnovers in the first half. After not committing a single turnover in the last game, Turner turned the ball over five times.

A Nick Johnson 3-pointer from the left corner with 2:31 remaining gave the 'Cats a 26-22 advantage - the biggest lead of the half for either team.

Fogg held UCLA leading scorer Lazeric Jones to a scoreless, 0-of-4 shooting performance in the first 20 minutes. Jones, who came into the game averaging 13.4 points per game, finished with just two points on 1-of-12 shooting.

UA took a 27-26 lead into the locker room despite shooting just 32 percent (8 of 25) in the half.

"Kyle Fogg defended Lazeric Jones the entire game, and did a great job holding him to only one basket," Miller said.

The Wildcats will close the regular season next Sunday at Arizona State. Tipoff is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. MST.

Game notes

Of the seniors, only Dondre Wise did not check into the game. Center Alex Jacobson made an early appearance in the first half to combat UCLA's size, Miller said. Meanwhile, guard Brendon Lavender earned the start over Johnson in his final home game.

Lavender finished with five points on 2-of-6 shooting.

Tracy McDannaldTracy McDannald
GOAZCATS.com Senior Editor

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