Arizona State lets game slip away vs. No. 5 UCLA in disappointing loss
TEMPE — Arizona State basketball nearly pulled off its most impressive win of the season on Thursday against No. 5 UCLA but ultimately let it slip away with a 74-62 defeat at Desert Financial Arena.
The Bruins’ win gives UCLA (17-2, 8-0 Pac-12) a two-game lead over ASU (15-4, 6-2) at the top of the Pac-12 standings. It also marks the second loss for the Sun Devils at home in conference play against a top-five-ranked opponent after falling to Arizona on Dec. 31.
The 12-point differential may look like UCLA was in control of the contest, but that was not the case. The Sun Devils led 60-58 with 6:13 to go, but a 16-2 Bruins run to close out the game sealed ASU’s fate. Arizona State did not score in the last 3:36 of the game.
“Everyone will point to the end of the game and we couldn’t stop them from scoring and we couldn’t score,” Sun Devils head coach Bobby Hurley said. “First of all, that’s not a 12-point loss. So whatever that number is doesn’t mean anything to me. That game was not a 12-point game.”
In a contest that was dominated by both teams defensively, Sun Devil guards D.J. Horne, Desmond Cambridge Jr. and Austin Nunez stepped on the offensive end with a combined 39 points. Horne finished with 14 — all of which came in the first half en route to ASU’s 35-30 halftime lead — while Cambridge Jr. had 15 and Nunez added 10 off the bench.
Both teams combined for 31 turnovers, with Arizona State committing 18 compared to UCLA’s 13. The Bruins were able to gouge the Sun Devils on points off turnovers, 24-9.
“I thought we didn’t take care of the ball early in the game, and I thought we had that under control as the game went on, but unfortunately their points off turnovers was something hard for us to overcome,” Hurley said. “It felt like the difference in the game. They’re a really good team. Credit to UCLA and what (head coach) Mick Cronin has done there. Those guys aren’t fazed by anything.”
The tenacious ASU defense produced five steals, six blocks and kept the likes of Jaime Jaquez Jr. at bay for most of the game at just nine points on 4-of-12 shooting. But unfortunately for the Sun Devils, Jaquez Jr. went 3-for-5 down the stretch, including his only three-pointer of the game.
Lock it in 🔒
The Sun Devil defense forces a shot clock violation!
— Sun Devil MBB (@SunDevilHoops) January 20, 2023
While Jaquez was struggling, UCLA redshirt senior point guard Tyger Campbell and guard David Singleton stepped up with 43 combined points, split 22 and 21, respectively. Campbell was 7-of-11 (63.6%) from the field and 8-for-9 (88.9%) from the free throw line, while Singleton hit four of his team’s six 3-pointers.
“They turned their level up and I think they fed off the fact that they were hitting some shots too,” Hurley said. “You play teams like this that have been to the Final Four and have those types of guys that have won so many games. They know how to turn it up a little bit like down the stretch.
“There were some times that we missed guys, we should have made one more pass or a different type of pass and it wasn’t made and against a defense like that — if there is an opening and someone is open, you better be able to find it because they covered the court very well and their bigs move very well. They’re a very good defensive team.”
A total of 13,363 fans were in attendance, with over 5,500 of those being students to set an all-time student section record for an Arizona State men’s basketball game at DFA.
ASU hosts USC (13-6, 5-3) on Saturday at 8 p.m. on ESPN 620 AM / 98.7 FM HD-2, the Arizona Sports app and ArizonaSports.com.