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Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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Thursday / June 29.
  • Arizona Exposes UCLA’s Defense in Statement Victory

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    By MIKE McCURRY

    Between the seven 100-plus point outbursts, nightly three-point barrages, and continuous Lonzo Ball highlight reels, it has been easy to condone No. 3 UCLA’s rather pedestrian defense this season.

    After No. 14 Arizona went into Pauley Pavilion on Saturday and made a national statement in the form of a 96-85 victory, the Bruins’ Achilles’ heel can no longer be ignored.

    UCLA allowed season-highs in points (96) as well as points per possession (1.32), spoiling another All-American performance from Ball (24 points, 8 assists, 6 rebounds, 2 steals) while dropping to 6-2 in Pac-12 play.

    Per KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency metric, UCLA has college basketball’s second-best offense in the last 16 years on a per-possession basis, trailing only the Frank Kaminsky-led 2014-15 Wisconsin juggernaut.

    But, after getting exposed on Saturday, the Bruins’ defensive ranking fell to 128th nationally this year. That’s just not going to cut it for a national championship contender.

    Arizona, which improved to 7-0 in the Conference of Champions, was led in scoring by freshmen Kobi Simmons, who had 20 points, 6 boards, and 5 assists, and Lauri Markannen, who went for 18 points and 7 rebounds.

    Allonzo Trier added 12 points, 7 boards, and 4 assists in 27 minutes in his season debut. The sophomore was able to block out chants of “Steroids” derived from the UCLA faithful and provide a major lift off the bench for the Wildcats.

    Is it too early to anoint Sean Miller as the National Coach of the Year?

    Over 40 NBA personnel were in attendance, with no shortage of professional prospects to scout.

    Ball (No. 2 pick), Markannen (No. 9), T.J. Leaf (No. 21), and Trier (No. 57) are projected by DraftExpress to be selected this June, whereas Ike Anigbogu (No. 14), Simmons (No. 30), and Rawle Alkins (No. 40) are pegged for the 2018 Draft.

    Photo: Getty Images

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