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ASU Basketball: Sun Devils face stiff test at UCLA

Arizona State will be back on the court Saturday against a hot Bruin team.

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Life on the road isn't easy, and nowhere in the country is that more true than in the Pac-12. Less than 48 hours after losing by 10 to a good USC team, the Arizona State Sun Devils will return to the court this afternoon to face the UCLA Bruins.

UCLA rebounded nicely from a rough 0-2 start to conference play, knocking off No. 7 Arizona on Thursday night behind a game-winning three from point guard Bryce Alford. The win was the third for the Bruins against a top 20 opponent already this season.

Now, Arizona State and UCLA will meet today in a bit of a crossroads game for both teams.

Tip-off: 3:00 p.m. MT

Television: Pac-12 Networks

Arizona State Update (10-5, 0-2 Pac-12):

For the second consecutive game, the maroon and gold struggled for long periods of time on the offensive end of the floor against the Trojans. They finally started to score in bunches towards the end of the contest, pulling within 65-63 with just one minute remaining, but a quick 10-0 run soon ended any hopes of a comeback.

Point guard Tra Holder continued to be the team's only consistent player on offense, scoring 21 points and shooting 4 of 6 from three-point rage. Willie Atwood and Andre Spight also had solid outings, with each dropping 11 points.

UCLA Update (10-6, 1-2 Pac-12):

Perhaps no team in the country has had a season as up-and-down as the Bruins have. Steve Alford's team has a few questionable losses against the likes of Monmouth, Washington, and Washington State, while also posting victories against Kentucky, Gonzaga, and Arizona. Their 10-6 record has them outside of the top 25 at the moment, but another win today will likely change that.

UCLA tends to come and go with the play of Alford's son, Bryce. The junior leads the team in points and assists and has already dropped 20 points or more on six separate occasions this season.

Keys to victory:

1. Don't let Alford beat you

If the Bruins have the ball in the closing seconds with a chance to tie or win the game, Alford is getting the ball and will shoot it at the first opportunity. The goal for Arizona State should be not letting him touch that ball in the first place. The sharpshooter has a knack for hitting big-time shots and has burned both the Huskies and Wildcats in the past week. Bobby Hurley needs to make sure his defense is switching on all screens and doubling if necessary to make sure he doesn't get a shot up.

2. Run some offense

The Sun Devils are fairly effective on offense when they settle into their half-court sets and get good looks inside. Recently, however, they have been settling for poor-percentage attempts with more than enough time left on the shot clock.

They have shot at least 24 three-pointers in three of their last four games, much too high a number for a team that isn't particularly good at outside shooting. ASU will need to use the allotted 30 seconds if necessary and not settle if its to escape Pauley Pavilion with a win.

3. A good start

Arizona State found itself in a 20-10 hole early on Thursday and could never quite dig itself out. Getting off to a fast start will be key in this one as it should take the crowd out of the game and supply the team with some much-needed confidence.

Prediction: UCLA - 82, Arizona State - 78