Sun Devils fall 87-75 to No. 5 UCLA in Tempe

Arizona State had no answer to UCLA's presence down low, being outscored 50-22 in the paint, 31-7 in second chance opportunities.

Arizona State's five starters combined to play 199 out of their 200 possible minutes Thursday night against No. 5 UCLA. 

But despite ASU head coach Bobby Hurley's efforts to keep his five best players in for the majority of the game, their best wasn't enough to pull off an upset in Tempe. 

In front of 10,176 fans at Wells Fargo Arena, the largest crowd this season, ASU lost 87-75 to UCLA. With the loss, ASU dropped to 13-16 overall and 6-10 in Pac-12 play.

"It's hard to be upset because I saw how they competed and how much energy they expend playing tonight and pretty proud of that," Hurley said. 

ASU senior guard Torian Graham led the Sun Devils with 28 points on 9-of-19 shooting from the field, 7-of-14 from behind the arc. ASU guard Kodi Justice finished the game with 19 points after six points in the first half. He was 6-of-14 of the field, 5-of-9 from the three-point line. 

"Torian was outstanding," Hurley said. "He was doing this most of the year. He looked very good out there." 

After being down 45-36 at halftime, the Sun Devils opened the second half on a 13-4 run. It pulled them to within one point, 49-50, with 15:22 remaining in the game.

However with every ASU starter playing the entire 40 minutes, except for Justice playing 39 minutes, fatigue set in for the Sun Devils. UCLA was able to pull away, continuing their domination in the paint and their production off the bench. The Bruins outscored ASU 50-22 in the paint, out-rebounded ASU 49-30 and outscored ASU 33-0 in bench production. 

"I feel like they got some tough offensive rebounds," Graham said. "And they were able to get open shots off the kick outs and off the rebounds getting easy put backs. I think they had like 15 offensive rebounds tonight, so its hard."

While Hurley didn’t substitute until 13:06 left in the second half, he said after the game they were going to go to the bench in the first half, but none of the five starters wanted to come out. 

Justice said he "wouldn't trade the five players on the court for anybody."

"You put your five best players out there and you roll with it," Justice said. "It hurts us sometimes when we don't have bench help, but we are young. We can fight through that. We have timeouts to catch our breath. I felt like we competed the whole night and couldn't ask for anything else." 

Freshman forward Ramon Vila and redshirt freshman forward Andre Adams were the only two scholarship players on ASU’s bench for the night. Freshman center Jethro Tshisumpa was not in attendance due to suspension.

"They (the five starters) are all in there fighting and scrapping and trying to get steals," Hurley said. "I trust those guys."

The Sun Devils have now lost back-to-back games after losing 86-71 to Washington State on Saturday on the road after winning their two previous games, one against Washington and the other against Stanford. ASU only has two games left in the regular season, both home games against USC and Arizona.

The Sun Devils will then travel to Las Vegas to participate in the Pac-12 Tournament on Wednesday, March. 8. ASU is currently No. 9 in the Pac-12.

With their win, the Bruins improved to 25-3 overall and 12-3 in conference play and extended their winning streak to six consecutive games. UCLA is now 6-0 in February and are the only Pac-12 program this season to have a perfect record this month.

"They are the real deal looking at their chances just moving forward," Hurley said."I'm proud of how we fought and competed tonight." 

UCLA freshman forward T.J. Leaf lead the Bruins with 25 points on 11-of-16 shooting from the field. Leaf came into Thursday’s game averaging a team-high 16.7 points for the Bruins.

UCLA freshman guard Lonzo Ball, a highly considered first round NBA draft pick, went into the locker room after landing awkwardly on his right ankle with 3:49 remaining in the first half, but returned to start the second half. Ball only finished with four points on 2-of-6 shooting.

"He just tweaked his foot a little bit and got it re-taped," UCLA head coach Steve Alford said. "When he came back he was fine." 

The Bruins swept the season series against ASU with its win Thursday night. UCLA beat ASU 102-80 in Pauley Pavilion on Jan. 19. UCLA has now won seven of their last eight meetings against the Sun Devils.

Other than Graham and Justice for ASU, the Sun Devils didn't get a lot of production out of its junior guards, Tra Holder and Shannon Evans. Holder, who finished with five points on the night, didn't score his first field goal of the game until 1:01 left in the game. Evans had 11 points on 4-of-14 shooting from the field. 

With ASU's offense not working on all cylinders, UCLA was able to take advantage on the other end, particularly in the first half, outscoring ASU 32-10 in the paint, with Leaf leading the way with 16 points for the Bruins.

"It just looked like we were in a decent rebounding position and it comes down to length and the size," Hurley said. "It seemed like (UCLA's Thomas) Welsh had to just extend his arm and that was good enough over Tra or Shannon at times where they did get the offensive rebounds. It's definitely a trade off. We've been doing thus all year. We got to be more committed to make sure everyone is in there battling and not leaving anyone on an island to try to rebound with a 7-footer." 

Graham singlehandedly kept the Sun Devils in the game for the first half, scoring 17 of ASU’s 36 points at the half. Graham was 5-of-8 shooting from the field, 4-of-6 from behind the arc. 

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