The Sun Devils put up a valiant effort without their second leading scorer Carrick Felix (flu) but the Bruins size proved to be too much to handle in the second half as they get the 66-59 win at Wells Fargo Arena Thursday, extending ASU's losing streak to four. UCLA's Lazeric Jones had an answer for every one of Arizona State's shots, leading all scorers with 20 points while Jonathan Gilling did his part for the home team with 17 of his own.
"We had any number of point blank shots...that we didn't capitalize on," Head Coach Herb Sendek said. "We had opportunities in a close game to put points on the board that we didn't seize."
But from the tip, it looked like things might go their way. It took the Devils less than five minutes to match their eight point first half in last week's Washington State game and the offense seemed to be locked in with Chris Colvin at his best. The streaky guard had five assists in the first seven minutes and looked to be in full control.
"I'm really pleased with Chris' continued progress," Sendek said. "We essentially can't take him out of the game...he has the opportunity to play through a lot of things and I think that's helping him."
Then, all of a sudden, the Devils couldn't buy a shot.
Like they seem to do every game, Arizona State went on one of their all-too-familiar cold streaks, missing 11 straight shots and assisting the Bruins in an 11-0 run. Yet when the dust cleared the Devils were still in the thick of it and after a big three from Gilling and a powerful Jordan Bachynski dunk, ASU went into the locker room only down 25-24.
After the brief intermission though, Joshua Smith and the Bruins bigs flipped the switch, combining for 20 second half points in the paint on 55.6% shooting. And with Bachynski playing careless basketball (game-high five turnovers) and Ruslan Pateev racking up five fouls in only 14 minutes, Sendek was stuck between a rock and a hard place when it came to defensive options.
"We fought down low," Colvin said, "[Smith] just had the best of us."
"[Josh Smith] is a tremendous force inside," Sendek said. "We had a similar challenge when we played earlier in Anaheim."
The Devils did have some chances to take the lead late, coming as close as within four points with less than nine minutes left but instead the team couldn't translate a handful wide open looks to easy buckets. Trent Lockett was the main culprit missing eight of his 11 attempts from the field making it clear to fans that he is still far from 100%.
"[My ankle] is going to be an issue but at the end of the day I'm still out there playing," Lockett said. "I still have to be effective."
Arizona State goes back to the drawing board Friday before Saturday's 6:00 pm home slate against the Pac-12 cellar-dwelling USC Trojans.
Other Game Notes
- After two points and two rebounds in 10 first half minutes, Sendek elected to keep forward Kyle Cain on the bench for the final 20 minutes. When asked if he might be in the dog house Sendek quickly responded with a smile: "Tomorrow is a new day."
- As for Felix's absence, Sendek said that he knew early Wednesday that he wouldn't be available. Fans also shouldn't hold out hope for his return Saturday as Sendek said he hasn't even seen the versatile swingman all week.
- The man received a majority of Felix's minutes, Chanse Creekmur, did at least make the most of them, busting out of what seems like a season long slump and making two threes to go along with four rebounds.