After being bounced hard by #18 Arizona State on Thursday night, 74-67, #11 UCLA hit another speed bump when visiting the Arizona Wildcats on Saturday.
The Wildcats stormed out of the gate, opening up a 49-31 lead at the half, eventually winning 84-72, though the game was not nearly as close as the score indicated. Arizona led by as many as 25 points in the second half, even though the Bruins cut the deficit to 9 near the end of the game.
With the Bruins falling into a three-way tie for second place in the PAC-10, joined at 8-4 by Arizona State and Cal, the conference is up for grabs. Current leader, Washington, is 10-3 in conference play and 19-6 overall. They have the same overall record as both the Bruins and Cal.
Arizona is 18-8 overall and 8-5 in the conference, but is clearly the hottest team in the PAC-10, winning 7 straight after beginning conference play at 2-5 and being nearly written off as a contender.
The way they are playing, however, national ranking and a NCAA bid could be in their immediate future. If the Wildcats can continue playing well through the final five regular season games and perform well in the PAC-10 tourney (March 11-14 at the Staples Center in LA), they could even receive an automatic bid.
The task will be a daunting one for Arizona. Their next three games are all on the road: at Arizona St., Washington St. and Washington.