UCLA gets beaten in the paint, on the boards in loss at Arizona State

UCLA looked like it had a chance at Arizona State, Isaac Hamilton pulling up on the right wing for what could have been a game-winning, buzzer 3-pointer. But even that was likely a mirage — just another ill-conceived play in a 68-66 loss, one that delivered a gut punch to the Bruins’ NCAA Tournament hopes.

Hamilton’s shot wasn’t reviewed, since all it drew was back iron and the sighs of UCLA fans hopeful for a late-season surge. On the replay, however, the sophomore’s fingertips looked like they were still on the ball as the backboard lit up red. With 6.8 seconds left, UCLA likely hadn’t created a viable last shot.

The Bruin offense had looked disjointed for much of the second period, missing 11 of its first 14 shots after the break to lose what had been a 36-32 halftime lead.

Norman Powell led the team with 16 points, but didn’t score a second-half point until the final 92 seconds. Big man Tony Parker was a non-factor, fouling out with 9:42 left on the game clock; he finished with just two points and one rebound, his worst showing of the year.

But what really sank the Bruins was lackluster rebounding and indifferent defense. Arizona State dominated them on the boards, 39-27, and sank an array of shots at close range. The Sun Devils shot 54.5 percent on 2-point attempts, and scored 36 points in the paint — 14 more than UCLA.

That run started with 6-foot-6 forward Savon Goodman, who hit all eight of his shots for game-high 20 points, a line he supplemented with 12 rebounds, two assists and two steals.

ASU took 21 of its 26 free throws in the second half, and made 6 of 8 in the final 2:12 to cap its scoring. The Sun Devils won despite not hitting a field goal in the last four minutes of the game.

That last field goal was a 3-pointer by Bo Barnes, a 30-footer that was part of Arizona State’s 8-0 run. Followed by Tra Holder’s free throw, it gave the host team a 62-57 lead with 3:22 on the clock. UCLA fought back, earning three straight free throws of its own by Hamilton and point guard Bryce Alford, but Kevon Looney committed two straight fouls. Holder and Goodman hit four more free throws.

Then, Powell suddenly woke up, hitting back-to-back shots and cutting the Bruins’ deficit to just 66-64. UCLA just couldn’t grab a clutch rebound. After forcing ASU into a missed 3-pointer with 23 seconds to go, no one beat out Goodman for a board. Looney — who had 14 points, five rebounds, two blocks and five steals — was forced to pick up his fifth foul with 18.2 seconds left.

Jonathan Gilling only hit one of two, but it was enough. After Hamilton’s layup to make it a one-point game at 7.9 seconds, Holder split his own free throws to cap the scoring.

UCLA shouldn’t completely be counted out of the NCAA Tournament picture yet, but won’t reach the 20-win threshold without an upset at No. 7 Arizona this Saturday.