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ASU men's basketball can't mount comeback, lose at UCLA

The Sun Devils lost their third straight game at the hands of the best offense in the country

Freshman guard Tra Holder dribbles the ball in a game against UCLA on Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2015, at Wells Fargo Arena in Tempe. The Sun Devils defeated the Bruins 68-66. (Ben Moffat/The State Press)
Freshman guard Tra Holder dribbles the ball in a game against UCLA on Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2015, at Wells Fargo Arena in Tempe. The Sun Devils defeated the Bruins 68-66. (Ben Moffat/The State Press)

LOS ANGELES — The ASU men's basketball team has struggled mightily with ranked teams this season and hoped a trip to sunny Los Angeles Thursday could change its fortunes. It didn't go as planned.

The Sun Devils (9-10, 2-4 Pac-12) fell to the No. 3 UCLA Bruins (19-1, 6-1 Pac-12) 102-80 Thursday night at Pauley Pavilion, running ASU's record against ranked opponents to 0-5 on the season.

For the second straight game, ASU came out of the gates slow, falling behind 21-9 just five minutes into the game and setting themselves up in a chase position.

"It felt very similar to the game we had against Arizona," head coach Bobby Hurley said. "We just didn't get off to a good start."

The usual suspects showed up for the Bruins, as freshman forward TJ Leaf and freshman guard Lonzo Ball contributed important minutes.

But what hurt more for ASU was senior guard Isaac Hamilton, the Bruin's fourth leading shooter and fifth-best 3-point shooter.

"When you scout and prepare for UCLA," Hurley said. "Hamilton might be the fourth guy you're talking about in terms of priorities, just because of the players that they have."

That oversight of Hamilton came back to bite the Sun Devils, as he nailed his first four 3-pointers and eight of his first nine, outscoring ASU 25-21 at one point. Hamilton finished with 33 points, a season high, leading all scorers.

Hamilton's hot shooting gave the Bruins a 25-point lead in the first half and looked a blowout as Hurley fumed on the Sun Devil bench.

Earlier in the season, ASU folded in similar situations, like in losses to Kentucky and Purdue. This time ASU never backed down and embarked on a 16-3 run starting at the end of the first half. They cut a 25-point Bruin lead down to seven points at the under-12 minute timeout.

The Sun Devils headed to the bench with a renewed sense of self, ready to complete the comeback.

But it was not to be. The Sun Devils faded down the stretch, as the Bruins outran and outscored them 34-19 in the final 12 minutes.

"The game shouldn't have ended like that," junior guard Tra Holder said. "Especially getting it down to seven."

Hurley said he has an idea of what happened and hopes to use practice time to ensure it doesn't happen again.

"We're going to work on conditioning, so we can sustain," Hurley said. "We are really going to work on that in practice. I felt like we couldn't sustain for the full 40 minutes."


Reach the reporter at mtonis@asu.edu or follow @Tonis_The_Tiger on Twitter.

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