UCLA Arizona State with a scrappy comeback Thursday afternoon, earning an 80-75 rubber-match victory after being down 15 points in the second half.
Some extra notes from the Bruins’ first game in Las Vegas, one that earned them a semifinals matchup against Arizona tomorrow at 6 p.m. (Pac-12 Network).
— Larry Drew II said Arizona State was the first team that noticeably sagged off him this season. When they did so again on Wednesday, he made them pay. The senior point guard was an efficient 8 of 10 from the field, and finished with a career-high 20 points. He twice scored 18 as a sophomore at North Carolina.
He said he hadn’t felt as hot from the field since high school. The effort also came in spite his four fouls, which he played with for much of the second half. UCLA’s next opponent is paying attention.
“Larry Drew has been a huge reason that we’ve lost both games,” said Arizona coach Sean Miller later in the afternoon. “He has scored and also gotten his teammates easy baskets. I’m pretty sure we’re not the only team that feels that way.”
Added senior forward Solomon Hill: “Larry Drew is the head runner for their team.”
Drew averaged 10.5 points and nine assists in his two games against the Wildcats this year.
— At 9:12 in the second half, Shabazz Muhammad streaked down the court and flushed in a one-handed jam over 7-foot-2 Jordan Bachynski. The slam helped re-energize a UCLA team that looked lost on offense in the first half, sparking a 28-13 run through to end of the game.
“In high school, I think I’ve done it,” Muhammad said. “Just knowing I got the break and I knew he was going to jump. So I just tried to get a good position on him and went up and got the dunk on him.”
The stellar play helped make up for an embarrassing one earlier, when Muhammad tried to go up down low against the ASU center. Bachynski easily stuffed him twice in about the same number of seconds, also securing the conference record with 116 blocks on the season. The old record (115) was set Arizona State’s Mario Bennett in 1995.
— UCLA won a rebounding battle for the first time since beating Arizona in January, ending a streak of 11 straight losing games on the boards. The Bruins were up 39-31 on the glass, a result made more impressive by the roster’s diverse contributions. Leading rebounder Kyle Anderson only had five boards, but every starter grabbed at least four. Muhammad led with nine rebounds, six on the offensive end.
“I thought we blocked out,” coach Ben Howland said. “I thought Travis (Wear), in particular, and David (Wear) were excellent in that respect, because they’re the ones that are kind of isolated inside. They’re playing four guards out on the perimeter, and only one big inside.”
“I think it’s just the effort,” Anderson said. “Five guys to the glass.”
The nine-rebound margin was UCLA’s largest since a 42-26 advantage against Fresno State on Dec. 22.
— A scuffle broke out on the court with less than one second left in the game. Arizona State’s chances looked grim as UCLA was set to inbound the ball with a 3-point lead, and forward Carrick Felix fouled Muhammad hard as he caught the ball. Felix appeared to kick Muhammad, and the two puffed their chests and got in each other’s faces. ASU freshman Jahii Carson, who also got involved, said Felix’s kick wasn’t intentional. Kyle Anderson rushed to the scrum as well.
“He did kick me, but that’s something — he’s a competitor and he’s mad they lost, so that’s what it is,” Muhammad said.”
All four players received offsetting technicals for unsportsmanlike conduct.