LAS VEGAS — Frustration and defeat were clear in the faces of the ASU men’s basketball team after the Sun Devils (21-12) fell to UCLA 80-75 Thursday.
ASU was up by 15 points in the early part of the second before UCLA (24-8) took the lead in the final six minutes. An altercation between ASU senior wing Carrick Felix and UCLA freshman forward Shabazz Muhammad spilled on the court that handed out four technical fouls. Despite a huge day, ASU junior center Jordan Bachynski entered the press conference looking like he came out of a boxing match, not a basketball game at MGM Grand Garden Arena.
The loss to the Bruins eliminated the Sun Devils out of the Pac-12 Tournament in the second round — and ultimately their hopes of making the NCAA Tournament. Winning the conference tournament would have given the Sun Devils an automatic bid.
“It just sucks, really,” Bachynski said. “Nothing really else to say. It’s really disappointing.”
The loss spoiled Bachynski’s career game, in which he broke the Pac-12 single-season record in blocks after getting three swats on the Bruins. Bachynski finished the game with 22-points on 8-of-16 shooting and six rebounds.
It looked like the Sun Devils had complete control of the game with their strong start in the first half, which they finished with a 41-33 lead. ASU shot 53.6 percent from the field and were 4-of-7 from the 3-point line. ASU won the rebounding battle 17-16 and Bachynski hung 14 points in the first 15 minutes.
ASU had just defeated Stanford 89-88 the day before in overtime with Felix, redshirt freshman guard Jahii Carson, senior guard Chris Colvin and sophomore forward Jonathan Gilling all playing over 43 minutes. The Sun Devils clearly lacked energy to preserve their lead, but ASU coach Herb Sendek gave the Bruins full credit for their win.
“I think it was more of UCLA doing a great job on the backboard, making key shots,” Sendek said. “They really made some clutch baskets and really were tenacious on the offensive glass. Those two things, probably more than … our ability to trace it to fatigue, titled the game in their favor.”
Muhammad, who shared Pac-12 Freshman of the Year honors with Carson, had a slow first half due to foul trouble only four points on 2-of-5 shooting in the first half.
Redshirt junior forward Travis Wear scored the go-ahead jumper for UCLA at the one-minute mark and sank the game’s dagger from the left wing.
Wear, who didn’t play in either of the two regular season meetings between the two teams, tallied 15 points and six rebounds.
The Sun Devils will most likely be drawn for the NIT with a high seed. Amid the disappointment, Carson declined to comment about whether he would stay next year or declare for the NBA Draft and set his focus toward winning the NIT championship for ASU.
“I’m just thinking about trying to come out here and get a championship, the first championship of my collegiate career,” Carson said. “No matter what we do at this point of the season, we still have something to focus on and that is to continue our win streak and try to build more chemistry to end out the season.”
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