Missed Opportunities in First Half Doom ASU

For the first 15 minutes of Thursday's night game, Arizona State stood toe-to-toe with 4th ranked UCLA. After being tied at 11, the Sun Devils were outscored 18-7 in a matter of just five minutes and momentum permanently shifted to the Bruins. The turning point of the game was a missed dunk by James Harden at the 1:14 mark that resulted in a three point basket by Josh Shipp.

The next basket was a halftime buzzer beater three by Darren Collison which gave UCLA a decisive 29-18 lead after 20 minutes.

"Obviously the missed dunk by James Harden was a big play because he misses a shot that would have cut the lead to three," said UCLA Head Coach Ben Howland, "and instead we come down and Josh Shipp hits a three to give us an eight point lead. Darren Collison's three-pointer at the end of the first half put us up eleven and was huge for the momentum going into the halftime break."

"That was a key play and I should have finished the bucket and it resulted in a three," said Harden. "We missed another lay up and they came back down and hit another three. It was a big swing in the game…we kept control of the game until I missed that dunk."

"That seem to be the game changer right there," said Derek Glasser. "That put them up by eight and I don't think we ever got it under eight after that."

All in all, the Sun Devils shot themselves in the foot repeatedly, and against a team of the Bruins caliber that is the proverbial kiss of death. "Looking back at the game I thought our guys did a good job defensively through the majority of the first half, if not the entire first half," said head coach Herb Sendek. "UCLA was able to open the lead not so much on our defense, but on our offense…our turnovers really put us on our heels defensively."

"I thought we played pretty well in the first half, all things considered, at least to put ourselves in position to be in the neighborhood. Unfortunately they opened things up with that run at the end of the first half."

UCLA converted 10 of 20 shots from beyond the arc, and those baskets certainly added to the already high level of frustration the maroon and gold were experiencing on Thursday night.

"I think we challenged better in the second half, than we did in the first," Glasser stated. "They hit their shots once again tonight. They're tough to beat already and when they hit 50% from three it's almost impossible."

"It's hard to win when you can't make shots. We just couldn't out the ball in the hole and against a team like that, it's just a matter of time until they go on a run."

"Obviously their defense was excellent for 40 minutes and very few things came easy for us," Sendek noted.

Harden was able to get off just two shots in the second half, and according to the freshman it wasn't a different UCLA defense that caused him to struggle. "I didn't get many opportunities and we didn't run our offense in the second half," said the guard. "We were kind of stagnant…they're a good team, but we didn't do what we needed to do. They came off (in the second half) like we should have come off – with a lot of energy."

"We didn't execute our stuff – hats off to them."

ASU's other primary offensive weapon, Jeff Pendergraph, had a game he would naturally want to forget about. The junior had more turnovers (six) than points (five) in just 25 minutes of play. "No it wasn't one of his best games," said Sendek. "Obviously it's very important for our team that he be at his typical high level for us to be better."

Against USC on Saturday, a must-win in terms of NCAA tournament chances, not only Harden and Pendergraph, but other ASU players will have to step up offensively to keep the aspirations of March Madness alive.

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