LOS ANGELES — If there’s any team having a wilder season than UCLA, I think you would be hard-pressed to find it.
The Bruins continued their topsy-turvy, roller-coaster season on Thursday night, defeating No. 7 Arizona 87-84 on a step-back Bryce Alford 3-pointer with 1.8 seconds left to break a tie game and send the Pauley Pavilion crowd into a frenzy.
But man, did they do their best to make it interesting.
UCLA led by 14 points with 5½ minutes to go in the second half, and by 10 with 2:39 to play. That’s when Arizona began its furious comeback, clamping down on defense and going on a 10-0 run to tie it at 83 after an old-fashioned 3-point play from Kadeem Allen. Then, on sequential possessions, Isaac Hamilton and Ryan Anderson each got fouled at the rim and split a pair of free throws. That set the stage for Alford to be the hero, and he knocked down his fifth 3-pointer of the night and wound up with a game-high 25 points.
UCLA (10-6, 1-2 in Pac-12 play) has knocked off Kentucky, Gonzaga and Arizona — all top-35 victories, according to KenPom — and lost to Wake Forest, Washington and Washington State, all of whom are outside of the top-100. It’s a scatter-shot record that’s going to give the Bruins one of the most interesting profiles when it comes to judging them for the NCAA Tournament.
Is there an explanation for why there is a major inconsistency that we see with the Bruins? It’s a small sample, but I would look at home/road splits. Simply put, the Bruins are a better team at home than they are on the road right now. You can simply look at record, where the team is currently 1-5 on the road and 9-1 in Westwood. Or you can look at their shooting percentages, where the Bruins are shooting 47 percent from the field and 37 percent from the 3-point line at home, and 44 percent from the field on the road along with 33 percent from beyond the arc.
If the Bruins can ever figure out their road woes, this could be a legitimate team to watch. If not, they’ll likely continue to ride the roller coaster of results throughout the rest of the year.