Arizona's Mark Lyons wants to be regarded as the nation's top point guard. UCLA's Larry Drew II might be a better true point man, though he's probably not even the best player on his own team.
That distinction goes to Shabazz Muhammad, who could atone for a forgettable game - one which cost the Bruins the Pac-12 lead and their Top 25 spot - by leading his team to a road win over the sixth-ranked Wildcats on Thursday night.
Lyons is the reigning Pac-12 player of the week after matching a season high with 24 points Saturday, including 15 in the decisive second half of a 71-54 win at archrival Arizona State.
"I don't want to be the best point guard in the Pac-12, I want to be the best in the country," said Lyons, who also had three assists and three steals. "I'm aiming for the moon, so I can be amongst the stars. I play every game as if it's my last."
UCLA's last game did not go so well, having a 10-game winning streak snapped with a 76-67 loss to then-No. 21 Oregon on Saturday.
While Drew had eight assists and scored the Bruins' only six points in the final three minutes, Muhammad was shut out in the second half after scoring 10 in the first.
Muhammad, averaging a team-high 17.9 points, was benched for the first five minutes for being late to practice the previous day.
That defeat dropped UCLA (15-4, 5-1) from the AP poll after a one-week stay and out of a tie for first place with the Ducks.
While Arizona (16-1, 4-1) suffered its only loss at Oregon on Jan. 10, the Bruins have won their only two true road games - at Colorado and Utah - but those schools have a combined 3-9 conference record.
UCLA is facing an Arizona team which is 9-0 at home before heading north Saturday to visit the Sun Devils, who were 11-1 in home games before losing to the Wildcats.
"The key for us is how we bounce back going into what is the toughest road trip for anyone in the Pac-12 this season," coach Ben Howland said. "This will be a real good test for us."
That could be particularly true for Muhammad, who has totaled 20 points in two road games while shooting 9 for 29. UCLA is 7-0 when he scores at least 20.
Fellow freshman Jordan Adams is 1 for 12 from the field and has scored nine points over the past two games.
Adams is averaging 15.2 points, just as Lyons is. However, Arizona's senior guard has stepped up in conference play, scoring 19.4 per game.
"He has great belief in his own ability, but he also believes in our team," coach Sean Miller said of the Xavier transfer. "He's used to winning, he's used to playing in big games and he's used to performing in big games. When one player feels that way, it can become contagious."
Drew also has been in many big games, having spent three seasons with North Carolina, but he's never played in Tucson, and UCLA has dropped four straight there. He ranks among the Division I leaders with 8.1 assists per game - Lyons is at 3.3 - and Drew leads the country by a wide margin in assist-to-turnover ratio (4.67).
UCLA has dropped six of nine to the Wildcats, including a 66-58 loss in last year's Pac-12 tournament.
Arizona's Solomon Hill had 25 points and 12 rebounds in that matchup and is averaging 16.7 points in his last six games.
The Associated Press News Service
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