Arizona State Sun Devils men basketball’s (19-9, 10-5 Pac-12) seven-game winning streak came to an abrupt end Saturday, as the UCLA Bruins (18-11, 11-5) handed the Sun Devils their first loss of February with a 75-72 victory in Pauley Pavilion. UCLA needed a three from Jaime Jaquez Jr with less than a second remaining to give them their sixth straight victory, vaulting the Bruins to a first place standing in the Pac-12 while dropping ASU from first to third.
“I don’t think this is one where I run in there and I’m angry with them in the locker room,” coach Bobby Hurley said postgame. “I’m more impressed with how we competed, and the shot-making, and that we responded to their charges throughout the game and took them right to the wire. I have respect for that.”
Despite leading for more than 24 minutes of game action, UCLA took over possession with 17 seconds remaining and the score tied at 72. After draining the clock till just a few ticks remained, guard Tyger Campbell initiated an impromptu pick and roll with Jaquez, giving Jaquez just enough space to rise over the charging Mickey Mitchell and connect on the improbable game-winning three.
“That kind of makes it hurt more,” Edwards said when asked if losing was easier to handle when it comes on such an incredible shot. “I told the guys in the locker room that we put ourselves in that position, so we can’t really be too upset. An away game like this, battling for first place in the conference, we’ve got to be up a little bit more at the end of the game. We’ve got to play more physical than them throughout the whole game like we really want it, and I don’t feel like we all did that today.”
ASU was once again plagued by stretches of offensive ineptitude, scoring just four points while failing to connect on either of their two field goal attempts in the game’s final 3:50. The Sun Devils final field goal of the game was a Rob Edwards three, a common sight Saturday as the redshirt senior finished with seven triples on just nine attempts while finishing with 23 points in the loss. He and fellow starting guard Remy Martin provided the bulk of the scoring output for ASU, as Martin finished with a game-high 30 points on 11-24 shooting while adding a team-high three assists.
“It was a hell of a game to be a part of, you can see why both of these teams are playing at an elite level,” Hurley said. “I’m coaching the game, and I’m fighting for our lives out there, but at the same time you have some admiration for just how hard guys are competing and the shot making down the stretch.”
Martin was especially impressive Saturday, often carrying the ASU offense for extended stretches as his teammates searched for any sort of offensive consistency. The potential Pac-12 player of the year even upped his play when his team needed him most, scoring 19 of his 30 points in the second half.
“All year, as we’ve been trying to find our identity and get more guys playing well, he’s just put us on his back,” Hurley said of Martin. “He’s capable of having scoring nights like he did tonight every night. He’s playing at an elite level.”
ASU also suffered from one of their largest rebounding disparities of the season, pulling down just 27 boards compared to UCLA’s 41. The disproportion was especially stark on the offensive end, as ASU collected just six offensive rebounds while UCLA grabbed 16.
“Rebounds,” Edwards said when asked what the difference was Saturday. “They got a lot of offensive rebounds, and they beat us on the backboard. That played a real big part. We weren’t really as physical as them down in the post, so I feel like they beat us that way.”
ASU will look to return to their winning ways Saturday when they face off with a USC (20-9, 9-7) team fresh off a 57-48 win over the Arizona Wildcats. For now, the Sun Devils will work to shake off the unfamiliar feeling of losing and strive to regain their spot atop the Pac-12.
“We played a winning game,” Hurley said. “I’ve never seen UCLA like this since this I’ve been here - maybe the Lonzo Ball year - in terms of the crowd and the energy in the building. Between the two teams we’ve won 12 in a row, and they had to hit a contested shot at the buzzer to beat us.”