LAS VEGAS – UCLA went into the season with the uncertainty that comes with a new coach. The Bruins suffered their share of setbacks, a notable one just a week earlier.
Once the Pac-12 tournament got rolling, the Bruins took off.
Now, after trading body blows with one of the nation’s best defensive teams, UCLA takes home a Pac-12 championship in its first season under Steve Alford.
Outlasting one of the best closing teams in basketball, UCLA knocked off No. 4 Arizona 75-71 in the conference tournament final on Saturday.
We’ve got an edge to us now, it’s a lot of fun, Alford said. To win a championship means a lot to us.
They definitely earned this one, emerging from a battle of the Pac-12’s best teams that featured big plays, big blows and floor burns.
The Wildcats locked UCLA down in the second half after an offensive show in the first.
The Bruins countered by doing the same thing to Arizona down the stretch, and then made the big plays against the big-play Wildcats to finish it off.
UCLA point guard Kyle Anderson was at his all-around best, finishing with 21 points, 15 rebounds and five assists. Jordan Adams made a big 3-pointer with 45 seconds left and scored 19 points. Norman Powell scored 15 points and combined with David Wear to hit four free throws in the final five seconds.
Nick Johnson led Arizona (30-4) with 22 points and Kaleb Tarczewski added 12. Aaron Gordon had 11 points, eight rebounds and eight assists for the Wildcats.
No. 5 LOUISVILLE 71, No. 21 UCONN 61: In Memphis, Tenn., Montrezl Harrell had 22 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks, and the Cardinals (29-5) won the inaugural American Athletic Conference tournament title in Louisville’s lone season in the league.
The Cardinals have won three straight league tournament titles after taking the last two in the Big East.
No. 20 NEW MEXICO 64, No. 8 SAN DIEGO STATE 58: In Las Vegas, Cameron Bairstow scored 17 points to lead the Lobos (27-6) in the Mountain West Conference championship game, giving New Mexico an automatic NCAA berth.
PROVIDENCE 65, No. 14 CREIGHTON 56: In New York, Bryce Cotton scored 23 points and fourth-seeded Friars (23-11) won their first Big East tournament title since 1994.
No. 16 IOWA STATE 74, BAYLOR 65: In Kansas City, Mo., DeAndre Kane scored 17 points, Georges Niang added 13 and fourth-seeded Cyclones (26-7) rallied to to win their first Big 12 tournament title since 2000. Kenny Chery had 16 points for the seventh-seeded Bears (24-11).
No. 23 VCU 74, GEORGE WASHINGTON 55: In New York, Treveon Graham scored 22 points and the second-seeded Rams (26-7) pressed and pressured their way into another Atlantic 10 final.
The Rams will play today for the A-10 title for the second year in a row, facing fourth-seeded St. Joseph’s.
No. 22 MIDDLE TENNESSEE STATE 84, SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI 55: In El Paso, Texas, Ebony Rowe scored 23 points and the Blue Raiders (29-4) cruise to the Conference USA title and a 12th straight trip to the NCAA tournament.