Bruins Exorcise Devils

The seniors carry UCLA down the stretch and they hold on in crunch time to be ASU, 82-79. It wasn't a great game for the Bruins, but they get their much-needed first win on their desert road trip...

9th ranked UCLA availed itself of some clutch 3-point shooting, free throws and offensive rebounds to hold off a late barrage of outside shots by ASU to defeat the Sun Devils in Tempe, 82-79. The Bruins raised their record to 13-3 overall, 5-1 in the Pac-10. ASU fell to 10-6 overall, 3-4 in the Pac-10.

UCLA jumped out to an early 7-0 lead behind the hot shooting of Matt Barnes, who scored all of the Bruin points. UCLA continued to shoot the ball well throughout the first half, but they also turned the ball over a lot, and ASU is a transition team that feasts on turnovers. With quick guards Curtis Millage and Jason Braxton doing most of the early damage, ASU was able to catch the Bruins eventually off its bread and butter, points off breaks and points in the paint after dribble penetration.

The Bruins' matchup zone forced ASU to shoot too many 3s. In addition, when Dan Gadzuric wasn't in foul trouble, he did a good job of fronting Chad Prewitt, the Sun Devils' big gun. However, when Dan was out, both Prewitt and Awvee Storey seriously abused TJ Cummings. Dan got his 2nd foul about 12 minutes into the second half, and Prewitt, covered with bandages after a series of Academy Award winning flops, began piling up the points.

When UCLA wasn't turning it over, Billy Knight hit some key Js and got 2 offensive rebound baskets, but with Curtis Millage penetrating into the lane and Prewitt and Storey scoring inside, ASU grabbed a 31-30 lead with about 2:30 to go. Knight and Barnes scored, and then Billy stripped Braxton at the top of the key and drove the length of the floor to score the final points of the half with 1.7 seconds to go, giving UCLA the 36-31 lead.

In the second half, Jason Kapono and Dan joined Billy and Matt in the scoring parade. Ced Bozeman was very effective finding the open men, especially in transition, and Jason was a particular favorite. With the Bruins getting effective scoring from 4 positions and tightening up their zone, their lead fluctuated between 9-13 points for almost the entire second half. The Bruins continued to turn the ball over too many times, however, and Tommie Smith joined Prewitt in taking advantage of Gadzuric's prolonged absences due to foul trouble to hit some high percentage shots within the zone.

With the score 69-62, ASU seemed to gain the momentum. TJ missed an easy shot inside, but Chad Prewitt tipped the ball into the Bruins' basket. That gave UCLA a 9-point lead with about 3 minutes left, and the game was a FT and 3-point contest after that. UCLA missed some FTs down the stretch and ASU, which was 2-20 from 3 up until then, bombed in 4-7 3s, but they just couldn't catch up to the Bruins. Hence, the final score, which was closer than the actual game.

UCLA had a balanced attack, as Billy scored 21 (8-14 FGs, 1-3 3s, 4-5 FTs), Jason 20 (5-12 FGs, 2-6 3s, 8-9 FTs), Matt 19 (7-14 FGs, 2-4 3s, 3-6 FTs), and Dan 14 (6-8 FGs, 2-4 FTs). All 4 players scored at least 10 points in the second half. Ced, making his first start since the surgery, dished out 7 assists, a new career high in his still very short career. Matt had 4 assists and Jason added 3. Matt had 9 rebounds, Dan 8 (7 in the second half in a very strong performance), Billy 7, Jason 5, Ced 4. Billy, who leads the Bruins in steals, padded his totals with 3 picks. Matt had 2. Dan got 2 nice blocks and continues to block shots at about triple the pace he was on prior to Pac-10 play. Dijon Thompson added 4 points and 3 rebounds off the bench. TJ got 4 points and 2 rebounds. Andre Patterson and Ryan Walcott each grabbed 2 rebounds (Ryan and TJ also got an assist apiece).

Overall, UCLA shot 49.2% from the floor, 35.7% from 3 and 65.4% from the FT line. ASU shot 39% from the floor, 22.2% from 3 and 72.2% from the FT line. UCLA outrebounded ASU 42-32, but committed 18 turnovers to the Sun Devils' 7, not an encouraging sign. Matt, Ced and Billy each made 3 turnovers; the freshmen made 10 of UCLA's 18 giveaways, but I guess that is what you get with FR.

Chad led ASU with 22 points and 8 rebounds. Curtis added 15 points and 7 rebounds. Tommie got 13 points. Jason Braxton and Awvee Storey each scored 10. Shawn Redhage, a 6-7 combo forward, came off the bench to get 7 assists, along with 6 points and 6 rebounds, in a very sweet performance. Kenny Crandall, ASU's best shooter, was only 1-8 from the line and seemed to either have a hand in his face or else he was shooting with little or no angle to the rim. Who does he think he is, Billy Knight?

This was by no means a great game for the Bruins. 18 turnovers versus 7 definitely lowers one beneath the realms of greatness, no doubt about that. But it was a solid win against an opponent who was previously 9-1 at home and is still the only team in the Pac-10 to defeat Oregon. Matt Barnes is still hot and Billy Knight continues to score at an alarming pace for somebody who is still most often described as a "role" player (I think 15 ppg takes one out of that term). Jason showed signs of coming out of his slump. He was huge from the FT line and made only 1 turnover in 37 minutes. He looked especially good when he was spending all those dimes Ced dished to him.

Ced has no confidence at all on his shot (0-3 from the field, 0-2 from the FT line), but looks pretty comfortable in the other aspects of the game. Dijon and Andre looked nervous, but both had very productive moments. Dan was large and effective again. In 8 of the team's last 9 games, he's accumulated 114 points (14.3 ppg) and 75 rebounds (9.4 rpg), a big switch from earlier in the season, especially when you consider that he's still only playing about 25 mpg in this stretch. Ryan seemed excited to be playing in front of the home folks, or at least to be playing against a bunch of guys he knew from h.s., and he saw 12 minutes, making only 1 turnover and playing solid d.

No lessons to be learned from this game; the Bruins just need to take better care of the ball next time they play these guys. Now, it's on to Tucson. USC's helter-skelter style fed right into Arizona's up-tempo game and the Trojans got flattened. I liked Arizona's 3-2 zone with Luke Walton on top. Maybe UCLA ought to borrow that one the next time they play USC. Maybe they can borrow Luke. I think UCLA will slow the ball down against the Wildcats, get the ball inside as much as possible at every position and try to make them defend for 30 seconds a possession, an aspect of the game at which Arizona does not excel. Hopefully, UCLA won't make 18 turnovers…

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