After going 48 days in between Pac-10 wins, the early going on Thursday made it seem like the ASU men’s basketball team was going to get its second in a row.
The Sun Devils jumped out to a 21-9 lead midway through the first half, dominating early on. It appeared as if the momentum from a win against Washington State on Saturday, which snapped the Sun Devils’ 11-game conference losing streak, was spilling over.
Then things changed in a hurry and it was all UCLA the rest of the way, as the Bruins outscored ASU by 30.
UCLA closed the first half on a 30-8 run and never looked back on its way to blowing out the Sun Devils 71-53 at Pauley Pavilion.
“You have to compete for 40 minutes,” ASU assistant coach Lamont Smith said in his postgame radio interview. “We always have to give maximum effort. Tonight we only played well for six minutes.
“At this point our guys have played a lot of games. It is time for us to grow up, start making plays and start producing.”
In the first nine minutes of the game, ASU dominated play, holding two different 11-point leads.
The Sun Devils were getting easy buckets and converting layups and dunks for easy points.
A three from freshman guard Chanse Creekmur put the Sun Devils up 21-9 with 9:31 left in the first half, causing UCLA coach Ben Howland to call a timeout.
Following the break, UCLA quickly seized control of the game, and the Sun Devils no longer got many easy looks.
With senior guard Ty Abbott on the bench in foul trouble, the Bruins rattled off an 11-0 run in under two minutes to even the score at 21-21.
UCLA led 31-29 with 3:59 left in the first half. Then the Bruins went on an 8-0 spurt to take a 10-point halftime lead.
“We were executing at a high level,” Smith said. “Defensively we were tremendous. Then we got off the gas and things didn’t go right.”
ASU would never get the game back into single digits as UCLA easily ran away from the Sun Devils in the second half.
The Sun Devils scored 21 points in the first nine and a half minutes of the game, but were outscored 62-32 the rest of the way.
Turnovers normally are a problem for UCLA, but the Bruins turned it over just eight times, while ASU had 16 giveaways.
Not one Sun Devil scored in double figures on Thursday night. Creekmur led with nine points, freshman guard Keala King added eight points and sophomores Trent Lockett and Ruslan Pateev had seven points each.
UCLA, on the other hand, had five different players get there, led by junior guard Malcolm Lee’s 16 points.
Sophomore Tyler Honeycutt added 13, while freshman Joshua Smith had 12 points and sophomore Reeves Nelson added 12 points and 12 rebounds.
Senior guard/forward Rihards Kuksiks missed his third straight game with a sprained ankle. Abbott returned to the starting lineup after missing Saturday’s victory over Washington State with a shoulder injury.
The senior scored just three points and fouled out.
ASU now must regroup and head to the Galen Center to face USC, a place where they have never won.
“We have a short turnaround for USC,” Smith said. “When you talk about USC you have to talk about their physical presence up front. We have to keep them off the glass and limit their touches in the interior.”
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