Lucky to be down just six points at halftime, UCLA needed to enter the second half swinging.
The Bruins proceeded to give up a 10-4 run to ASU, creating a 14-point deficit that only shrank to single digits briefly — for 16 seconds in the with just over two minutes left in the game. Less than two full days after a triumphant win over No. 6 Arizona, UCLA fell apart against the Sun Devils.
Rebounding had been the supposed emphasis throughout the week’s practices, and the Bruins actually beat the Wildcats on the boards Thursday night. But that grit did not last. ASU dominated UCLA with a 53-33 advantage on the boards. The Bruins’ next-worst margin was only -11, against UC Irvine.
Can lack of energy be blamed? UCLA looked worn out for much of the game, but it’s not like Arizona State had an advantage off the bench: two points to the Bruins’ zero. The Sun Devils essentially played their five starters the entire game, with only center Jordan Bachynski seeing fewer than 38 minutes. This, after four players eclipsed the 40-minute mark two days ago.
In their best win of the season, ASU proved itself a team with legitimate NCAA tournament prospects — a quick turnaround given their back-to-back 10th-place conference finishes. UCLA becomes a much harder team to peg, one capable of knocking off the conference’s best teams, but also one that can be maddeningly inconsistent.
Oregon’s path to the Pac-12 title, meanwhile, has been cleared. Arizona, ASU and UCLA each have two losses apiece, and none get another regular-season shot at the Ducks.
UCLA’s loss fittingly ended with Carrick Felix blocking Jordan Adams’ meaningless, last-second layup. ASU had outworked the Bruins all game; it wasn’t about to stop short.
More stats and notes:
— UCLA shot 20 of 75 from the field, beating out a 28-of-74 performance against UC Irvine as the worst of the season. The Bruins also failed to attack the basket, settling for missed 3-pointers as the second half dwindled away. They attempted a season-low six free throws, split evenly between Jordan Adams and Shabazz Muhammad. The team’s lowest mark prior was 11 in a loss to San Diego State.
— David Wear started the game by making two of three shots, but missed the remaining nine he took in the game. He also missed a wide-open dunk late in the game. Just an awful day overall for the fully healthy Wear twin, who couldn’t back up his assertion that he was as capable as Travis. It was the sort of performance that draws sympathy more than scorn.
— Speaking of Travis Wear, would his presence have changed the outcome at all? As transformative as he has been on offense lately, it’s hard to imagine how he would have limited Jordan Bachynski’s career performance. The 7-foot-2 center had a career-best 22 points and 15 rebounds, and tossed in six blocks and a steal for good measure. He missed two of his 12 shots.
— Tony Parker might have helped if his development was sped up a few months. As it stood, he picked up two fouls early and was more or less a non-factor for the rest of the game. He missed a shot and grabbed a rebound in his 13 minutes of play. Yes, he could potentially be better now had he been trusted more earlier, but he didn’t do anything notable with his biggest opportunity yet.
— Arizona State beat UCLA by 15-plus points for the first time since 2003. UCLA couldn’t finish off its first road sweep in the state since the 2007-08 season.