Having silenced a record-sized section of Arizona State students who wielded sarcastic signs and booed their every move, UCLA is moving from the animosity card to the main event.
The noise seems to be more deafening, the signs less classified as PG, the mockery in this almost border city pushing the limits of good taste.
What could Arizona fans have in store for the Bruins a year after they insulted seemingly every player on the roster, sparking a spitting incident involving one who didn’t even play?
An expected sold-out crowd inside the McKale Center and the national television audience won’t be the only ones watching closely on Saturday.
A Pac-12 spokesperson told The Times that the conference has been in contact with officials from Arizona and UCLA to review event management, operations and security planning for the game, which is scheduled to begin at noon, local time. local.
The awkward parts list apparently doesn’t include UCLA coach Mick Cronin. With his fifth-ranked Bruins (17-2 overall, 8-0 Pac-12) putting together a 14-game winning streak that could send the Pac-12 title race into a runaway midway through the game of the conference, Cronin did not list crowd control. between his worries.
“I’m not worried about it,” Cronin said Thursday night after his team beat Arizona State on a game-ending 16-2 run. “Unless they let them out of the stands and stuff like that… last thing on my mind.”
Cronin’s scruples centered on the No. 11 Arizona front line of Azuolas Tubelis and Oumar Ballo, who are averaging a combined 36.3 points and 18.4 rebounds.
“Probably the most productive tandem of big guys in the United States,” Cronin said.
They weren’t as prolific during a recent stretch in which the Wildcats (16-3, 5-3) lost two of three games, but coach Tommy Lloyd gave his offense a boost Thursday by placing Cedric Henderson Jr. at headline. lineup as Pelle Larsson comes off the bench. The move prompted better ball movement during Arizona’s 81-66 win over USC.
A year ago, a play in which Larsson and UCLA point guard Tyger Campbell got tangled up, earning each player a technical foul, seemed to intensify Arizona fans’ animosity toward the Bruins. Those fans taunted Campbell with a “Fuck you, Tyger!” chant and led an equally profane chant to shooting guard Johnny Juzang.
A parent of a Bruins player who did not want to be named told The Times a fan verbally insulted them to the point where the father’s young son was so upset they had to carry him out of the area. The fan was eventually removed by police, the father said.
After the game, UCLA forward Mac Etienne retaliated against the taunting students and appeared to spit in their direction. Etienne was cited by police for assault with intent to injure, insult or provoke before completing a diversion program to resolve the legal case.
The Pac-12 spokesman said the incidents were addressed privately with each school and the conference has reiterated its expectations that all parties adhere to its standards of ethical conduct and sportsmanship.
The fan uproar came the same day that Arizona guard Kerr Kriisa sent out a tweet that allegedly showed Campbell making a disparaging comment about the Wildcats while sitting in a group timeout.
“Mutual,” Kriisa wrote.
Campbell denied that his words were directed at Arizona.
Kriisa, who wore a headband and flicked her tongue, tossed the ball into the stands after Arizona completed its 76-66 home win over the Bruins, a measure of significant relief after going just 4-of-26. shots (15.4%) in team matches. first two meetings.
Near the end of UCLA’s 75-59 win over the Wildcats the week before at Pauley Pavilion, some Bruins fans mocked Kriisa’s 12-0 performance with chants of “MVP!”
Words matter, but not as much as what happens on the pitch. A UCLA victory on Saturday could give the Bruins a three-game lead in the conference standings, depending on the results of other games.
No matter what the fans yell at, the Bruins game could give them the last word.
“We’re just going to look at it as a game,” said UCLA forward Jaime Jaquez Jr. “We’re here to play a game and that’s it.”
Campbell said: “It will be fun. They were excited.”
This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.