Kimani Lawrence almost looked lost in his attempt to put up a last second shot before the first half buzzer sounded. He nearly double dribbled as he avoided UCLA Chris Smith’s defense. Lawrence’s hail mary heave from deep beyond the arc splashed in and he held his hand high in the shape of a three. He rushed into the tunnel with his ecstatic teammates as they had just completed a 14-0 run into halftime.
Closing out the half in style pic.twitter.com/IF5Hg87JAx— Sun Devil MBB (@SunDevilHoops) March 15, 2019
“Romello [White] blocked the shot, then I was trying to get on the break. And I looked up and had seen that there wasn’t a lot of time left. Lu[guentz Dort] was ahead of me, so, I was going to give it to Lu, but I fumbled it a little bit. So I just picked it up and threw it up,” Lawrence described.
He continued with a smile on his face.
“I didn’t even think it was going go in. It felt good, but like I didn’t even look at the rim, for real. It was crazy,” Lawrence said.
The sequence that led up to Lawrence’s buzzer beater was far from perfect, but the result was the best anyone could ask for. That same line can be applied to Arizona State’s (22-9) 83-72 win over UCLA (17-16) at in Las Vegas on Thursday.
The Bruins had cut down ASU’s lead to two before the Devils started their 14-0 run into the break.
Lawrence talked about the difference that run made for the game as a whole:
“We emphasize that a lot, ending the half on a good note,” he said. “We just wanted it to stop, the three-pointer was just extra, it was a bonus for us.”
At times, the Sun Devils either fell asleep or failed to close out on three-point attempts from the Bruins’ Jaylen Hands and Kris Wilkes early in the game. UCLA started 5-for-10 from deep to keep themselves in the contest. Although, that’s nearly a nitpick of ASU’s defense in the victory. Every loose ball, 50-50 rebound, the Sun Devils blitzed and lunged for it.
Sophomore forward Romello White’s swat of Jules Bernard’s shot attempt got Lawrence out in the open floor for his first half exclamation point.
Two other plays exemplified the defensive swarm ASU displayed against Murry Bartow’s Bruins.
With his hands spread wide, Rob Edwards jumped to knock down a pass. Remy Martin scurried to recover it and he fired an outlet pass in-stride to Luguentz Dort, who converted the layup in traffic.
Later, Dort put his body on the line for a long-rebound. He collected it and has he fell to the floor flipped it over the head of Smith at midcourt to the waiting Martin. He and Rob Edwards stood there alone, Martin tossed it to Edwards for the easy bucket.
“Our defense, we were really active with our pressure and getting deflections. So, I don’t think we could’ve finished a half better,” head coach Bobby Hurley said. “We carried that into the way we started the second half and built a really good advantage.”
The Sun Devils’ lead reached a high of 23. However, the Sun Devils never pushed the final dagger into UCLA at that point. The Bruins, with the help of countless ASU turnovers, whittled the lead down to nine. The defense wasn’t as sharp in the second half, but it’s hard to point the finger of blame to that side of the court.
On offense, the Sun Devils didn’t convert a field goal for over an eight-minute stretch in the second half. The miss shots and constant turnovers helped Wilkes find his stride, he’d finish with a game-high 25 points. Hands also added five threes and 21 points.
“They have players that can really get hot in a game. Wilkes and Hands, very explosive type players. We were able to battle through that and get the job done,” Hurley said.
ASU forced 13 turnovers that led to 20 points against UCLA. A major contribution to the fact the Sun Devils had five players in double digits. When that occurs, ASU is also 9-0.
White led the charge with a team-high 19 points. With seven-foot-one Moses Brown on the bench due to foul trouble for most of the game, White dominated the paint. As a team, the Sun Devils outscored the Bruins in the painted area 34-20.
“It was really just taking advantage,” said White on Brown’s foul trouble. “My teammates really looked for me today. I feel like they really tried to get me the ball. And they did a good job of doing that, and I felt like I just finished well.”
Edwards also found his shot, his 15 points came on an efficient 6-for-12 shooting performance with three three-pointers.
“Rob always -- I always feel like he -- if he’s going well and he’s stretching the defense, then it makes their life easier in the paint, Zylan [Cheatham] and Mello. So we need to try to get him to play at that level moving forward,” Hurley said.
In the end, everyone on ASU did enough to advance and play another game at T-Mobile Arena on Friday. They’ll face Oregon or Utah with a 8:30 p.m. tip on ESPN.
Hurley also talked about the importance of making that semifinal game is for the program:
“Yeah, it’s a big step. It means a lot,” he said. “We played in a lot of big games this year, a lot of high-level teams. We’ve been in this spot throughout the year. And this team has a great leadership and great resolve and desire to win. All those things were on display tonight.”