ASU's Rally Falls Short Against UCLA

Rob Evans' team came into this game with much hype. The marketing efforts for this match did pay off, as evident by the season record attendance of 9,013. All that was missing tonight was an ASU upset over UCLA. Despite ice cold shooting, the Sun Devils came very close in their quest, losing 82-79 to the Bruins.

Despite the final score, UCLA was in command virtually all game. It was a low scoring affair in the first half. Despite missing some easy shots, ASU was only trailing 13-12 at the 10:16 mark. Awvee Storey and Jason Braxton kept their team in the game. Storey with his usual grunt work under the basket, and Braxton providing one highlight basket after another. ASU tied the score for the first time at 27-27 with 3:25 left. Tommie's Smith third foul, was followed by a brief 26-28 ASU lead. However, an 8-2 run in the last 1:55 minutes of the first period, helped the Bruins regain its lead, and ended the half with a 36-31 lead.

The opening minutes of the second half were disastrous for ASU. Curtis Millage and Smith were called for their third and fourth foul respectfully in the first 90 seconds of the second half. While those two star ASU players were resting, UCLA jumped to a 50-39 lead at the 15:06 mark. Smith and Chad Prewitt did prevent the Bruins from running away with the game, but at the 5:56 mark they still enjoyed a comfortable 69-60 edge. It seemed that the Bruins got every marginal call, and the ball was always bouncing their way. But then Millage explodes with two three pointers to cut the lead to 76-72 with 39.1 seconds left. Here's where the game may have been lost. A technical foul was called on ASU due to a second incident of objects thrown on the court from the crowd. UCLA converts two technical free throws, as well as two foul shots to wide the margin to 80-72. ASU was forced to foul UCLA, but the Bruins failed to convert on all its free throws. That coupled with timely three-point shooting by ASU, helped the Devils narrow the margin to 82-79. A desperation shot by Millage as the buzzer sounded fell short, and the dream of an ASU upset was taken away.

With 39% shooting from the field, and 22.2% from three-point land, it's remarkable that ASU was still in a position to tie or even win the game. Its seven turnovers helped the cause, but being out rebounded 50-35 did not. Chad Prewitt led the Devils with 22 points and eight boards. Millage with 15 points and seven rebounds, as well Tommie Smith with 13 points played a spirited second half. Braxton and Storey finished with 10 points each.

While ASU did lose this game, the ever-popular "moral victory" adjective is appropriate to describe the Sun Devils performance. There was no quitting on this team, and despite poor shooting, they found a way to prevent UCLA from turning their victory into a blowout. Nevertheless, USC's loss to Arizona, makes the matchup with the Pac-10 leader on Saturday that more difficult for the Sun Devils. Losses can demoralize a team or motivate it to play better next time around. Saturday's game will show which team has successfully recovered from its loss on Thursday.

Coach Evans' Post-Game Remarks: "Our kids played with great effort. We battled to give us a chance to win. We had trouble defending them (UCLA), and that was key to the game. We were impatient on offense…Officiating doesn't win or lose games. I was never warned about the first incident of throwing objects on to the court. If I did get the warning, I would go on the microphone and ask the crowd to stop doing it. When the game is that close, you should let the players win the game. The technical free throws were pretty demoralizing, but I don't know if they prevented us from winning the game. I thought we had a great crowd tonight, and the actions of a few fans won't diminish that…"

"We had good looks at the basket, we just didn't knock them down. We played tight, and it was a learning experience for some of our players. I have no problems with some of our guys taking three-point shots if they have a good look…Awvee Storey was concentrating in practice, and worked on shoring up his game. His game is getting back to what it used to be…We didn't reach and grope on our fouls tonight. We will always have more fouls than the opposition (24-21). One of Tommie's fouls was silly one. We do need him on the floor to win ball games. Storey and Redhage filled in nicely for him…Jason made freshman mistakes, but played very well. He will be a great player for Arizona State. He played in the past against a lot of those guys (UCLA players), and he's not intimidated by the mystique of UCLA…UCLA's size helped them a lot. They didn't beat the number one team in the country because they're not a good team. But they didn't out hustle us tonight…"

. Sparky's Sundries: Sun Devil fans responded to the pleas of the team and the media, and came in droves to create the loudest crowd this season at Wells Fargo Arena. This game should give those in attendance every reason to come back on Saturday to cheer the team against USC…The student section was filled to capacity and was naturally the loudest part in the building. Too bad that a few of them awarded UCLA two technical free throws very late in the game…While throwing objects shouldn't be condoned, it came as a result of a poor officiating effort. The 22-9 second half free throw margin in favor of UCLA, along with awarding the visitors the ball on every marginal out of bounds call, created much frustration. The next time ASU will get a break from the refs, will be the first…UCLA's guards, while dribbling, were consistently throwing their forearms at ASU defenders. It's an absolute travesty, that they were called for just a couple of fouls on those instances. Something tells me this won't fly in Tucson on Saturday…Evans' decision not to play Storey, the star of the first half, until 3:34 left in the game, raises a few eyebrows. Braxton, who had his best game of the season, didn't see any playing time in the last few minutes of the game – another questionable call by the coaching staff…

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