Things are back to normal for Arizona.
The Wildcats, again in the Top 25, try to stretch their winning streak to eight games Thursday when they host No. 17 UCLA in a Pac-10 Conference game.
Arizona (9-3, 2-0 Pac-10) re-entered the Top 25 at No. 21 on the strength of its road sweep of Washington opponents to begin conference play, two weeks after its 312-week streak in the Top 25 ended Dec. 19. The Wildcats routed Washington State last Thursday before upsetting then-No. 7 Washington 96-95 in double overtime on Saturday, ending the Huskies’ 32-game home winning streak.
“It shows we are one of the top teams in the Pac-10 and we have not fallen off,” Wildcats guard Marcus Williams said Tuesday. “We had a slow preseason and a tough loss to Houston, but we are still on top. Some were really doubting us, but everything is back to normal.”
Hassan Adams scored a career-high 32 points for the Wildcats in Saturday’s win and is averaging a team-high 20.8 points. Fellow guards Chris Rodgers (11.2 ppg) and Mustafa Shakur (10.6 ppg) give coach Lute Olson a three-guard lineup he feels will be competitive with the Bruins.
“(UCLA)’s strength is the perimeter,” Olson said. “So there are some similarities between our teams. The perimeter matchups will be interesting. It will be interesting to see how much their inside people, who are new to their program, have developed. It should be a really competitive game.”
The Wildcats are 5-0 at the McKale Center this season and have won nine in a row there since a 70-63 defeat Jan. 29, 2005, to Washington State.
UCLA (11-2, 1-1) has struggled with injuries all season and is coming off a split of its first two Pac-10 games. The Bruins have been without injured senior centers Michael Fey and Ryan Hollins, starting guard Cedric Bozeman is expected to be sidelined at least three more weeks with a shoulder injury, and fellow backcourt starter Jordan Farmar has struggled with an ankle injury.
Farmar played 36 ineffective minutes in UCLA’s 68-61 loss Saturday to California, making just 2 of 11 shots from the field and finishing with six points. Arron Afflalo scored 19 points for the Bruins, who shot a season-low 36.7 percent (18-for-47) from the field and had their eight-game winning streak snapped.
“We’re going to have to play through these challenges,” said Farmar, who is averaging 14.1 points. “We’re getting our character tested.”
Afflalo is scoring a team-high 18.6 points per game, and the sophomore has made 44.9 percent (35 of 78) of his 3-point attempts.
Arizona has won the last four games between the teams and the last eight at the McKale Center. UCLA, which has not won at Arizona since a 66-64 victory Feb. 13, 1997, leads the all-time series 38-31.