TUCSON, Ariz. — Arizona’s streaking, UCLA’s teetering in the Pac-10.
Nic Wise scored 26 points and Jordan Hill had 22 points and 13 rebounds to lead Arizona to an 84-72 victory over the 11th-ranked Bruins on Saturday, the Wildcats’ seventh win in a row.
“We are just fighting and getting better,” Wise said. “We still feel we are not at our peak yet. We are still learning things and getting things done on the fly.”
Arizona (18-8, 8-5 Pac-10) broke an eight-game losing streak against Bruins, who were swept in the desert for the first time since 2005. UCLA (19-6, 8-4) — beaten at Arizona State on Thursday — has dropped two in a row for the first time this season.
Wildcats interim coach Russ Pennell’s had his players enter the McKale Center by walking through the student section. After a lukewarm response, especially from the students, earlier in the season, Pennell has his team rocking the building like it did in Lute Olson’s best seasons.
“I’m not as impressed with however many (wins) there are in a row as I am that we’re getting better,” Pennell said. “I see us getting better in practice every day, I see these guys hungry, I see them working hard.”
The Bruins gave up a season-worst 49 points in the first half, falling behind by 18 at the break and trailing by as many as 25 in the second half.
“Arizona is playing great,” UCLA coach Ben Howland said. “They are the hottest team in our conference and probably playing as well as anybody in the conference. It is hard to dig yourself that kind of a hole and come back.”
Darren Collison scored 26 for the Bruins, including 6-of-10 on 3-pointers. Four of his 3s came in a late outburst that twice cut the lead to nine, the last on Josh Shipp’s layup after an Arizona turnover with 1:08 to play.
Shipp, who finished with 18 points, missed a free throw that would have made it a three-point play, then missed an open 3 and the Bruins were finished.
Hill made two free throws with 43 seconds left and Wise one of two with 28 seconds to go to seal the Wildcats’ sixth straight conference victory. Arizona hadn’t beaten UCLA since 2005.
“It was one of those days where everybody is not on the same page,” Collison said.
Chase Budinger had 18 points and five steals and Zane Johnson scored 11 for the Wildcats, who have won six straight conference games.
Wise, who scored 27 in Arizona’s 83-76 win over USC on Thursday night, made nine of 13 shots to finish the week 17-of-24.
“I can’t believe some of the shots he made tonight,” Budinger said. “It was really impressive. He’s been stepping up for us lately. He’s been a clutch player. It’s contagious. When one person makes a shot, other guys see it and start knocking down big shots, too.”
Former Arizona standouts Jason Terry and Jerryd Bayless, with a few days off during the NBA All-Star break, were on hand to give the team a pre-game pep talk.
“We know the tradition they left,” Wise said. “We’re just trying to uphold it.”
Slowed by sore ankles against Southern Cal, Hill had 12 points and nine boards in the first half against UCLA.
Wise scored nine consecutive points — on an 18-footer, a nifty layup for a three-point play, a fastbreak layup and two free throws — to put Arizona ahead 69-48 with 10:37 to play. Howland benched his five starters briefly during Wise’s surge. The Arizona point guard’s free throws ignited a 6-0 spurt that the Wildcats their biggest lead, 73-48, on Hill’s inside basket with 9:27 remaining.
The Bruins scored the next 13 points, including a pair of 3-pointers by Collison. His second 3 cut the lead to 73-61 with 6:27 to play. After Wise made two free throws, Collison made another 3 to cut it to 74-65 with 4:58 to go.
The Bruins, who came in allowing an average of 61.1 points, committed 14 turnovers in the first half as the Wildcats rolled to a 49-31 lead.
“They did a great job of speeding us up and putting pressure on us,” Howland said. “It got us sped up so we were going way too fast, particularly in the first half.”
Arizona had eight first-half steals, four by Budinger, and committed only six fouls in the process.
Wise’s steal and layup punctuated a 12-0 run that put the Wildcats ahead 36-23 with 7 1/2 minutes left in the half. A 3-pointer by Nikola Dragovic and Jrue Holiday’s 14-footer cut it to 36-28, then Arizona finished the half with a 13-3 outburst.
Johnson sank consecutive 3-pointers for the final points of the half.
UCLA’s previous most one-sided loss was 86-75 at Washington on Jan. 24.