It was a crucial game in terms of maintaining momentum and staying in ESPN's Joe Lunardi's good graces; the Devils welcomed USC into Wells Fargo Arena and treated them to a 59-54 defeat. Rihards Kuksiks finally found his shooting shoes to knock down 6 three's and finish with 24 points. Eric Boateng pulled down 9 rebounds and also had the defensive play of the season with a beautiful rejection in the game's waning moments. Marcus Simmons scored a pesky 11 points for USC while Dwight Lewis clamped down defensively on Ty Abbott to keep the scorer out of the game.
Ben Howland can't wait to wake up from this nightmare. A powerhouse program that competes for the NCAA title year in and year out is suffering through a tough season that has seen some key players in the rotation transfer, seen the lone returning starter get distracted with legal issues, and has seen three potential starters thrive in the NBA instead of Westwood in Kevin Love, Russell Westbrook, and Jrue Holiday. The Bruins have lost 5 of 7 with their most recent loss coming in Tucson when some poor game-management in the final minute from the Bruins sealed the victory for Arizona. Michael Roll scored 21 while Nikola Dragovic scored 19 in the loss.
G – Malcolm Lee – (12.3 PPG, 3.1 APG) vs. Derek Glasser (10.2 PPG, 4.9 APG)
G – Michael Roll – (13.9 PPG, 44% 3PT) vs. Jamelle McMillan (6.6 PPG, 3.0 APG)
G/F – Tyler Honeycutt – (7.2 PPG, 6.8 RPG) vs. Ty Abbott (12.1 PPG, 43% 3PT)
F – Nikola Dragovic – (11.9 PPG, 4.4 RPG) vs. Jerren Shipp (4.5 PPG, 30% 3PT)
F – Brendan Lane – (2.5 PPG, 1.6 RPG) vs. Eric Boateng (8.4 PPG, 6.8 RPG)
It's been a merry-go-round for the Bruins rotation all year long as a lot of guys who didn't expect to get much run have played some critical minutes. Malcolm Lee has been running the point as of late and while he is improvingly steadily, he is still clearly playing out of position but he still creates matchup problems. Next to him is Mike Roll, a shorter American version of Kuksiks – he is a one-trick pony but he does that trick exceptionally well. Off the pine will be Mustafa Abdul-Hamid and Jerime Anderson.
It's sad to say it'll be the last time we see Glasser running the point in Wells Fargo Arena but luckily we still have Jamelle McMillan and Ty Abbott for another season. Glasser has been a bit inconsistent with his shot this year but I have a feeling he'll be feeling it in his last game in front of the home fans. Abbott has been quiet lately but when others are picking up the slack, it's the good kind of quiet. Coming in reserve will be Trent Lockett and Demetrius Walker.
Edge – ASU
While he has been an inconsistent shooter throughout his career, Nikola Dragovic just DESTROYS the Devils every time it seems. Somehow he just can't miss with those high socks and skinny little beard. Next to him is going to be Brendan Lane and Tyler Honeycutt – two stud freshmen that are still pretty raw but have a ton of potential and have been putting that potential on display for the Bruins in recent weeks. Mike Moser will see time off the bench as well as Reeves Nelson if his eye injury heals.
It's quite possible that this is the last game for both forwards as Boateng will graduate and the rumors of Kuksiks going pro in Europe haven't been squashed. If that's the case, they are both playing very well on their farewell tour. Kuksiks was unconscious against USC and he needs to continue that if the Devils want to dance. Boateng on the other hand, has continued to play strong basketball on both ends and his play against the athletic freshmen forwards of UCLA will be a crucial factor. Taylor Rohde is the first big off the bench while Jerren Shipp will get the starting nod on Senior Day but also log some quality minutes as his play has really picked up lately.
Edge – ASU
Dragovic. This guy has been a thorn in ASU's side for a few years now and he sparks the UCLA offense when he is rolling. He is a big-man but is allergic to the paint and spends all of his time on the perimeter. If ASU can contain him and make him uncomfortable, the rest of UCLA's offense will have to find other avenues to score and that will benefit the Sun Devils greatly.
Who Will Win and Why
A few months ago, the Bruins couldn't miss in the first half and then held off a furious Sun Devil rally in the second half to win by two. This time around, things are different: the offense has opened up and the Devils have a ton to play for. I see ASU opening up strong and playing a complete game to secure the win on Senior Day.
ASU 67 UCLA 60