Being a bubble team, Arizona State (20-10, 11-8 Pac-12) has no room to be giving teams second chances.
The win over Arizona was an incredible start to the final stretch of the season, but that showing had to be parlayed into another strong performance against No. 4 UCLA (26-4, 17-2 Pac-12) Thursday night. A win would likely punch their ticket to the NCAA Tournament. A loss would be acceptable, given the difficulty of the matchup, as long as the Sun Devils were competitive.
Only about one half of play in ASU’s 79-61 loss to UCLA Thursday night could be deemed competitive.
Self-inflicted wounds, missed opportunities
Before the game even appeared in its scheduled slot on ESPN, the Sun Devils jumped to a 12-2 lead courtesy of three-pointers from Desmond Cambridge Jr. and DJ Horne. Warren Washington scored a quick four points.
It was only a matter of time before the Bruins marched their way back, and they did, but it took almost 18 minutes of play.
But what was significant was not when, but how UCLA gained its first advantage of the night. With ASU up 28-25, Frankie Collins was called for a shooting foul against Jaime Jaquez Jr. Head coach Bobby Hurley, who had started his displeasure of the officiating early, was issued a technical foul for arguing the call.
Technical, flagrant, then a charge. The foul spectrum is killing ASU.— House of Sparky (@HouseOfSparky) March 3, 2023
UCLA guard Tyger Campbell and Jaquez Jr. each nailed a pair of free throws, and UCLA took its first lead of the night at 29-28.
They would hold onto that lead for the rest of the night.
“It was a one-point game at the four-minute mark,” Hurley said. “And we just ran out of gas a little bit in the second half. I think they offense-rebounded very well early in the game, and then we kind of fixed it for a while, and then they resurfaced again. And then through the whole course of the game. We didn’t take care of the ball. To UCLA’s credit, they are really good at creating turnovers, and they have great defenders, and that’s why they’re really good, but on the road, you’ve got to take care of the ball which we didn’t do.”
One glaring statistic against the Sun Devils was UCLA’s offensive rebound total. The Bruins corralled 20 offensive rebounds that turned into 18 total second-chance points. The Sun Devils recorded just 5 rebounds in the offensive zone.
It’s not like the Sun Devils did not have a chance to jump out to a larger lead earlier too. At halftime, ASU forced 11 turnovers to UCLA’s 10, but the Bruins turned those turnovers into 21 points on the other end. The Sun Devils generated just 5 first-half points off turnovers.
“The turnovers and the glass were the two biggest reasons why we lost today,” Washington said. “We have to clean that up for the next game, because USC is really good on the glass, and they’ll turn you over so we have to figure this out in the next 24 hours.”
UCLA took control in the second half, and led by as many as 20 points. Jaquez Jr. finished with 26 points, one away from his season-high 27. Campbell added 18.
. . .— UCLA Men’s Basketball (@UCLAMBB) March 3, 2023
: https://t.co/cFZUFfRkAG #GoBruins | @jaquez_jr pic.twitter.com/P9wP1kECdM
Horne led all ASU scorers with 13 points.
Barring a deep run in Las Vegas during the Pac-12 Tournament, Saturday’s game against USC (21-9, 13-6 Pac-12) at the Galen Center is labeled as a must-win in hopes for an NCAA Tournament bid.