Bruins battle Wildcats in Pac-12 semifinals

Las Vegas, NV ( - The Pac-12 Conference Tournament's slate of two semifinal contests kicks off Friday with a matchup pitting the fourth- seeded UCLA Bruins against the fifth-ranked and top-seeded Arizona Wildcats at MGM Grand Garden Arena in a rematch of last year's title bout.

The winner of this clash moves on to the Pac-12 championship contest, where the league title and an NCAA Tournament automatic bid will be on the line.

UCLA demolished USC on Thursday in the quarterfinal round of the Pac-12 Tournament, 96-70. It was the second consecutive game for UCLA in which the Bruins beat the Trojans, going back to the regular-season finale.

Arizona took on California to get the Pac-12 quarterfinal round action going on Thursday, and made quick work of the Golden Bears in the 73-51 victory. The Wildcats extended their win streak to nine straight games, and completed the three-game season sweep over Cal.

UCLA and Arizona met only one time during the regular season, and the outcome wasn't so favorable for the Bruins. The Wildcats took a 57-47 victory in Tucson in a defensive power struggle.

The Bruins were on fire offensively against USC Thursday night, connecting on 60.3 percent of their field goal attempts from the floor with a 12-of-20 mark from 3-point range. The Trojans, meanwhile, were held to 44.1 percent shooting in the contest. Isaac Hamilton netted 36 points to pace UCLA, while Norman Powell and Tony Parker chipped in with 14 points apiece.

Powell entered Thursday's quarterfinal matchup with a team-best 16.3 ppg, followed closely by Bryce Alford's 15.5 ppg average. The Bruins as a unit were connecting on 43.5 percent of their shots for 71.5 ppg, and blew that number out of the water against USC. UCLA has now won four straight contests since its loss to Arizona back on Feb. 21, in which the Bruins shot 38.1 percent from the field. Alford scored 22 points to lead the Bruins in that defeat.

Freshman sensation Stanley Johnson led the charge for Arizona on Thursday against California, netting 19 points with seven rebounds to pace his Wildcats in the win. Brandon Ashley chipped in 15 points with seven boards of his own, while T.J. McConnell added 13 points with six assists and Rondae Hollis- Jefferson contributed 10 points for Arizona. Defensively, the Wildcats clamped down and held the Golden Bears to 34.4 percent shooting from the floor in the contest.

Johnson heads into the semifinal matchup averaging 14.1 ppg to lead the team, followed by Ashley (11.7 ppg) and Hollis-Jefferson (11.1 ppg). The Wildcats are netting 76.5 ppg this season, and are holding opponents to a mere 58.7 ppg on 39 percent shooting. In Arizona's 10-point win over UCLA back on Jan. 21, Gabe York led the charge with 13 points off the bench, while Johnson grabbed 10 rebounds and McConnell netted 11 points and dished out five assists.