Bennedict Mathurin scored 27 points and led #2 Arizona back from a 12-point second-half deficit as the Wildcats won the Pac-12 championship game with an 84-76 victory over #13 UCLA on Saturday night in Las Vegas.
Top-seeded Arizona (31-3) earned its first conference tournament title since 2018 and is in line to be a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2014.
Mathurin, the Pac-12 Player of the Year, scored 18 points in the second half and made 13 of 15 free-throw attempts. He also stepped up with seven assists with starting point guard Kerr Kriisa unavailable for a second consecutive game due to a sprained ankle.
Four players scored in double figures for second-seeded UCLA (25-7), led by Jules Bernard with 19 points. Jaime Jaquez Jr. had 18 points and 10 rebounds. Johnny Juzang scored 16 points and Tyger Campbell added 14.
Arizona’s Dalen Terry had 15 points, seven rebounds and seven assists. Christian Koloko posted a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds.
UCLA led 40-35 at halftime and kept up the pressure at the start of the second half, getting a three-point play from Jaquez that started a 10-2 run that resulted in a 53-41 advantage at the 17:17 mark.
Arizona, known all season for its ability for instant offense, stormed back with a 22-5 run over the next nine minutes during which Mathurin scored eight points. The Wildcats led 63-58 with 8:17 to go.
Mathurin’s two free throws made it 72-64 with 5:26 left. The teams mostly traded baskets after that, with UCLA getting within 80-76 with 52 seconds left on a layup by Cody Riley.
Mathurin, going for a fast-break dunk, was called for a charge on the next possession, but Koloko made the game’s key defensive play, swatting a driving layup attempt by Juzang to preserve the four-point edge.
Mathurin then made one foul shot before Arizona came up with another key defensive play. Oumar Ballo blocked a 3-point try from Bernard to seal the victory. Ballo had six of the Wildcats’ 11 blocked shots, with Koloko contributing four.
Arizona ended UCLA’s five-game winning streak and won two out of three in the season series.