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January 13, 2014

UCLA cruises to Pac-12 win over ASU

After falling to No. 1 Arizona on Thursday, UCLA was determined to defeat Arizona State on Sunday to build momentum heading into its first Pac-12 road trip of the season next week.

"The pressure was all on them," head coach Steve Alford said. "You can't lose back-to-back home games. It's hard to recover from that in this league. ... Coming off the game we had to play earlier in the week against Arizona, I didn't know what kind of effort they'd put forth. I was worried about that [but] I thought we gave a really good effort."

Nonetheless, the Bruins began the game looking lethargic on both ends and found themselves down 12-6 after the Sun Devils' senior graduate transfer guard Jermaine Marshall knocked down a three. Marshall put up a game-high 25 points, which included five threes on eight attempts.

However, that would soon prove to be Arizona State's largest lead of the game.

"Coach really got on us about getting these stops, that we can't give up 12 points in the opening four minutes," said junior guard Norman Powell, who finished with 11 points and five rebounds. "We really wanted to better our defense and get stops ... and really start trusting each other on the defensive end 'cause that's what's going to take us to where we want to go."

Coming out of a timeout following Marshall's three, UCLA strung together 14 unanswered points and took a 20-12 lead with 12:13 left in the first period thanks to a shooting clinic from Zach LaVine.

The freshman guard, who had averaged nine points in his last five games, exploded with a pair of threes, one of his trademark jams, and a smooth finger-roll lay-up to score 10 consecutive points for the Bruins.

LaVine had 15 points on 6-for-8 from the field and 3-for-3 from beyond the arc in the first half alone. He finished with a team-high 19 points on 8-for-12 shooting.

"Today, I was just a little bit more aggressive," LaVine said of his best shooting performance since late November. "I took about 500 shots a day this week. I knew my jumper was on so I just felt like I might be a little bit more aggressive."

Conversely, Arizona State's top scorer, Jahii Carson, had an uncharacteristically sparse scoring night. Averaging 18.6 points coming into the game, Carson was inactive offensively until scoring his first point on a trip to the free-throw line 10 minutes into the first half.

The sophomore from Mesa, Ariz., didn't score a field-goal until putting in a lay-up nearly 14 minutes into the game. To cap off his relatively poor shooting game on Sunday, Carson's final shot attempt, a lay-up, became wedged between the rim and backboard.

He finished with nine points on 4-of-17 from the field and 0-for-5 from deep, despite shooting 51.1 percent from three entering the contest.

"Jahii didn't play near his capability tonight," ASU head coach Herb Sendek said, "and that certainly has an effect on our team because he is such a key player for us."

"I thought the job that our guards did on Carson made it tough on him," Alford said. "I just thought our guys had a good demeanor toward him. He's so good in transition, and he didn't get too much out in transition.

Once they captured the lead, the Bruins ran with it, and finished the first half with a 17-point lead at a 50-33 advantage.

With Carson having an off-night, it appeared as though Arizona State's other go-to offensive force, Jordan Bachynski, was prepared to put the team on his back in the second half.

After dunking down the first pair of points of the second half, the 7-foot-2 center made his influence felt when he grabbed a rebound on the defensive end 12 seconds later.

However, the Wear brothers and Tony Parker (until fouling out with 8:58 remaining), contained Bachynski on both ends. The senior, who averages 12.6 points and 9.6 rebounds per game, finished with 14 points and eight rebounds but was held to only six shot attempts.

"We never let the big fella really get in rhythm," Alford said. "[He had] only six shots. I thought the Wears and Tony did a really good job."

In addition to weathering Bachynski, UCLA also out-rebounded the Sun Devils handily by a 42-29 margin.

"We know our Achilles' heel has been rebounding since last year, and I feel like this team is picking it up," Powell said. "It's all about effort. Rebounding is effort, and I feel like the last two games we played we gave great effort on the glass."

Although UCLA managed to fend off ASU's second-half opening with five points of its own, the Sun Devils weren't done giving the Bruins a run for their money.

As the second half went along, Arizona State embarked on a 19-5 run that cut UCLA's lead down to nine points with 6:25 left on the clock.

Alford halted play with a timeout, which proved to snuff the Sun Devils' hot streak.

Bryce Alford led the Bruins in the remaining minutes of the game with seven points (13 points total) to improve their record to 13-3 overall and 2-1 in Pac-12 conference play.

"I think [it's] just guys being unselfish with the ball," Anderson said. "When we're unselfish, we're hitting that guy for the extra pass and knocking down wide-open shots. That creates big problems for the defense."

Coming up, UCLA faces its first road test of conference play. The Bruins will face No. 15 Colorado and Utah.


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