ANAHEIM, Calif. - It looked the right night to be Arizona.
UCLA wide body Josh Smith was unable to play after suffering a concussion in practice Wednesday, the Bruins had lost their previous two Pac-12 games and the game was at the remote Honda Center, 42.2 miles from the Bruins home, Pauley Pavilion, which is undergoing a renovation this season and is unavailable.
So the Bruins were small, struggling and a long way from home.
It was a setup.
The Wildcats were worn out by the 6-foot-10 Wear twins, Duke transfers Travis and David, in a 65-58 loss in their Pac-12 road opener, a game that was billed as the Wooden Classic.
Travis Wear had 20 points and David Wear had 14, and the two were 13 of 16 from the field and 8 of 8 from the free-throw line. They combined for 10 rebounds and three blocked shots. All the blocked shots were by Travis, who had not started since mid-December, even after power forward Reeves Nelson was kicked off the team.
Sometimes when one of your players in unavailable for a game, somebody who is as important to their team as Josh Smith, it sometimes galvanizes the rest of the group," Arizona coach Sean Miller said. "Individual players are hungry, and it can make for an improved team. I thought UCLA really played like that in the first half. They took it to us.The Wear twins really played well. Were not the only team theyve played well against. Tonight they had a bigger opportunity, and I thought they did a good job of taking advantage of it.
Travis Wear added, We knew they dont have a dominating post presence. If we got it in there, we took our time and tried to get it in close to the basket.
Arizona (10-5, 1-1) has some issues against bigger opponents, and most of them are bigger for a team on which 6-foot-7 Jesse Perry is the tallest regular. The Wildcats have been outrebounded four times this season, and three of those were losses (to Mississippi State, Florida and Gonzaga). The Wildcats ended up with a 39-37 rebounding edge over UCLA, but the Bruins were ahead on the scoreboard most of the way.
Were a small team," Miller said. "I wish we could grow, but thats who we are. Weve been that way through the first 14 games and played some good basketball, but against the bigger, stronger teams, there are times we struggle."
Now, we can negate if were are not turning it over and shooting the 3 well ... if you turn the ball over and dont shoot the 3 well and are small, thats really a hard combination, and tonight we had all three going against us.
Arizona, which plays Southern Cal on Sunday, committed 16 turnovers and made only 3 of 17 3-pointers, although many were contested since UCLA (8-7, 1-2) committed to pressuring the outside shooters. UA did not lead after UCLA went on a 10-0 run to erase a 12-11 deficit.
Compounding the issue was the fact that Arizona big men Solomon Hill and Jesse Perry, who combined for 29 points and 17 rebounds, also combined for nine turnovers, equaling UCLAs team total. UA played much better defense in the second half, when both Wears got in foul trouble, and limited the Bruins to an 8-for-27 half.
The Arizona guards were 7 for 24 from the floor. Brendon Lavender made 2 of 3 3-pointers; the rest of the guard quintet was 1 of 14 from behind the arc. Freshman Nick Johnson, playing his first Pac-12 road game, finished with a career-low two points, making 1 of 6 field-goal attempts and missing all four of his 3s. He was covered most of the night by UCLAs Lazeric Jones, who had 13 points, five rebounds and four assists.
I feel like we put pressure on those guys (guards) every game," Hill said. "We expect them to play good every game. We have to start our inside game, too. Once we get an inside game going, they can be more relaxed to score.
They had a game plan. They were going to pressure the wings and sag off the bigs. As soon as they got to mid-court, they (Bruins) were trying to deny them. If we would have initiated some low-post scoring, it would have been easier for the wings to play.
Freshman Josiah Turner started for the first time since the season opener and showed an all-around game with nine points, six rebounds, three assists and one steal.
Its nice to get back in the lineup, it is, said Turner, who had five steals and six points in Arizonas 69-51 victory over Arizona State last Saturday.
Coach told me at the beginning of the year that my practice play is whats going to give me the start, and thats what happened. He said that I thought I was going to be a little nervous, but I felt comfortable with it.
Smith is 6-foot-10 and more than 300 pounds, and he is the Bruins most imposing post presence. But he was ruled out after tripping on Brendan Lanes foot and hitting his head on Travis Wears thigh. His status for Saturday nights game against ASU is still up in the air, UCLA coach Ben Howland said. Arizona found out Smith was unavailable just before tipoff, Miller said.
When you prepare for UCLA, everything starts with Josh Smith," Miller said. "You have to be prepared for him, especially us. And when you dont play him, they had a different attack. They were more screening. The Wears were more of a primary."There are a number of things, if we would have known he wasnt going to play, that we would have certainly put more of an emphasis on. I dont know that would have made a big difference.Follow Jack Magruder on Twitter