ASU men’s basketball faces UCLA in must-win game

The ASU men’s basketball team’s trip to Los Angeles will be a short one Tuesday.

It might feel longer on the way back Saturday if the Sun Devils (20-8, 9-6 Pac-12) don’t chalk up some wins this week. ASU begins a two-game trip to the City of Angels to face UCLA Wednesday with its tournament hopes in jeopardy.

“There’s not a lot of words to describe our situation right now,” senior wing Carrick Felix said. “I still think we’re in a good place. We just got to battle in these last three games. We’ve just got to take it one game at a time and that game tomorrow is going to tell and let everybody know how we’re going to finish off the season.”

Felix said he checked online to see where ASU was projected by certain bracketologists. The Sun Devils are one of the first four teams out of the tournament on ESPN.com.

Felix said the next three games are must-win games for his team.

“I do feel like we’re an NCAA (tournament) team right now, but I think we have some stuff that we need to polish and clean up,” Felix said. “We’re there, but we’re not at that elite status yet. I still think we have room to go and the season is not over yet. I think within these last three games and even the Pac-12 tournament, we can still become a great team.”

ASU’s first matchup against the Bruins (20-7, 10-4 Pac-12) wasn’t even close.

The Sun Devils convincingly defeated the Bruins 78-60 at Wells Fargo Arena. UCLA did not have junior forward Travis Wear in the first meeting and he’s doubtful to play Wednesday according to ESPN.com. He’s second on the team in rebounds averaging 5.4 a game.

The Bruins have the worst defensive rebounding percentage in the conference at 67 percent.

Without Wear, ASU outrebounded UCLA 49-29 in the first meeting. Junior center Jordan Bachynski had one of his best games this season with 22 points, 15 rebounds and six blocked shots.

“I think we’re far from our best,” redshirt freshman Jahii Carson said. “There really hasn’t been a special time where we’ve played our best ball in my opinion. We played one of our good games against Colorado, and we played one of our worst games against Utah. We played one of our good games against UCLA and one of our bad games against U of A.

“We really haven’t had a spurt where we’ve played excellent basketball, and I think this weekend we’re going to try and play our best basketball and people are going to see that on the floor.”

Tip-off is at 9:30 p.m. on the Pac-12 Network.

Reach the reporter at mtesfats@asu.edu