Thursday, February 23, 2012

UCLA beats ASU at Tempe for season sweep 66-57

UCLA forward Travis Wear reaches for a rebound between Arizona State guards Trent Lockett and Chanse Creekmur, right, during an NCAA college basketball game Thursday, Feb. 23, 2012, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/The Arizona Republic, Rob Schumacher)

Lazeric Jones leads UCLA past Arizona State, 66-57

The guard plays more aggressively as he scores 13 of his 20 points in the second half to help the Bruins pull away.

Associated Press via The Los Angeles Times

February 24, 2012

TEMPE, Ariz.

Leaning against a wall outside the locker room, UCLA Coach Ben Howland saw guard Lazeric Jones walk by and asked him to come listen to a question from a reporter about his shooting.

"It's kind of weird to tell a player to shoot more," the reporter said, turning to Jones.

All Jones could do is break into a big smile. He's working on it, coach.

More aggressive than he was the previous two games, Jones scored 13 of his 20 points as UCLA pulled away in the second half, lifting the Bruins to a 66-57 victory over Arizona State on Thursday night.

"Even though I have to shoot more this year, I don't want to take all the shots," Jones said. "My teammates are hitting shots, so why not get them the ball? But if it's for the betterment of the team, I guess I take more shots."

Howland has been getting on Jones to shoot more since early in the season. Sometimes he does. He leads the team in scoring with 13.6 points per game, after all. Sometimes, though, he doesn't look for his shot; he took 11 combined against USC and St. John's the last two games.

After UCLA (16-12, 9-6 Pac-12) labored against Arizona State's slow-it-down approach in the first half, Jones took over early in the second to help the Bruins extend a one-point halftime lead to 17. David Wear added 13 points to give the Bruins a season sweep of the Sun Devils.

"We can't win without him taking more shots, being more aggressive," Howland said.
Arizona State (8-20, 4-12) had seven scholarship players available with second-leading scorer Carrick Felix out because of illness and again had trouble holding onto the ball. The Sun Devils had 18 turnovers that led to 19 points for UCLA and couldn't get shots to fall when the Bruins started extending the lead in the second half.

Jonathan Gilling had 17 points and Chris Colvin added 10 points and nine assists for Arizona State, which has lost four straight and nine of 11.

"The overall story line for our team tonight was making plays," said Arizona State Coach Herb Sendek. "We had any number of point-blank opportunities to score that we didn't capitalize on."

Both teams went into the final two weeks of the regular season hoping for something positive at the end of disappointing years.

The conference preseason co-favorite, UCLA got off to a miserable start — the loss to Middle Tennessee State was particularly tough — and lost talented-but-troubled forward Reeves Nelson, who was dismissed from the team on Dec. 9 after twice being suspended for insubordinate behavior.

The Bruins have little shot at the postseason unless they win the Pac-12 tournament and were coming off a 66-63 loss to St. John's on Saturday after giving up 19 offensive rebounds that led to 26 second-chance points for the Red Storm.

Arizona State's season has been ugly the whole way through.

The young Sun Devils — with no seniors on their roster — have struggled with turnovers, ranking among the worst in the nation, and are the only team from one of the six biggest conferences to not win consecutive games all season.

Arizona State epitomized its inconsistent season in Saturday's 22-point loss to Washington State, when it scored a meager eight points in the first half and 42 in the second.

The Sun Devils had a similar mercurial run in the first half against UCLA, opening six of seven from the floor before missing 11 straight shots and turning it over six times during a scoreless stretch that lasted nearly eight minutes.

The good news for Arizona State was that UCLA labored after its own solid start, its lead only 20-16 after Colvin ended the Sun Devils' scoreless stretch with a three-point play.

Leading, 25-24, at halftime, the Bruins started dropping in a few more shots in the second half, gradually stretching the lead to 47-41 midway through the second half.
Gilling kept Arizona State close with a three-pointer and an acrobatic three-point play, but UCLA started to pull away after working the ball inside.

Jones hit a three-pointer from the wing on a kickout with about seven minutes left and Joshua Smith scored a couple of times around the rim after knocking defenders back, putting UCLA up, 59-46.

Arizona State never recovered after UCLA's short run, making it a little closer only by hitting a few shots in the last two minutes.

"We came out sluggish in the second half and they jumped up on us," Colvin said. "We need to come out better in the second half and be ready to play."


Rapid Reaction: UCLA 66, Arizona St. 57
By Peter Yoon
ESPN Los Angeles, UCLA Report
February, 23, 2012 8:34 PM PT

UCLA completed a season sweep over Arizona State with a 66-57 Pac-12 victory Thursday in Tempe, Ariz. Here's a quick look at the game:

OVERVIEW: UCLA started slow but took the lead midway through the first half and never trailed again, but it wasn't easy to hold off the pesky Sun Devils.

Every time it appeared as if the Bruins had seized some momentum and were about to blow open a big lead, the Sun Devils rallied and kept within striking distance. The Bruins took a six-point lead late in the first half, but it dwindled to 25-24 by halftime.

UCLA had a 46-37 lead with 11:31 to play, but Arizona state rallied back to make it 47-43 a minute and a half later. Even down the stretch, when UCLA finally put the game away by opening a 66-49 lead with 2:25 to play, Arizona State made a run and really could have made things interesting if a couple of 3-point shots had fallen.

Still, the Bruins did what they needed to in winning on the road against one of the Pac-12's lower-tier teams. Lazeric Jones had 20 points to lead UCLA (16-12, 9-6 Pac-12) and David Wear added 13 points and seven rebounds for the Bruins.

Jonathan Gilling led Arizona State (8-20, 4-12) with 17 points and Trent Lockett added 13 points despite making only 3-of-11 shots.

TURNING POINT: After struggling to make a game-clinching run for most of the game, the Bruins finally took control with a 17-4 run that turned a 49-45 lead with 8:42 left to play into a 66-49 lead with 2:25 left.

The Bruins held Arizona State to 1-of-7 shooting during that stretch while connecting on eight of nine shots of their own. Jones and Wear each scored five points during the run, including a 3-pointer by Jones that gave UCLA 56-46 lead for the first double-digit lead of the game with 7:10 to play.

UCLA STAR OF THE GAME: Jones had 13 of his 20 points in the second half and was 5-for-6 from the field in the second half after going 3-for-9 in the first half.

He continually hit big shots and made big plays when Arizona State crept to within striking distance. His 3-point play with 15:29 left gave the Bruins a 38-33 lead. His 3-pointer with 11:31 to play gave UCLA a 46-37 lead and his 3-pointer with 7:10 to play made it 56-46.

STAT OF THE GAME: After Arizona State stormed out to an early 14-9 lead, the Bruins held the Sun Devils scoreless for nearly eight minutes and took control of the game with an 11-0 run.

Arizona State was 0-for-11 from the field during that stretch after starting the game by making six of its first seven shots. The Bruins also forced six of Arizona State's 18 turnovers during that stretch. UCLA scored 19 points off of those turnovers.

WHAT IT MEANS: The Bruins took care of business by defeating the Sun Devils and got some needed momentum heading into Saturday's crucial game at Arizona. The Bruins and Arizona are among the four teams battling for third and fourth place in the Pac-12 standings and a loss Thursday would have been devastating for UCLA's chances at earning a coveted first-round bye in the Pac-12 tournament.

It was the third road victory of the season for the Bruins, who lost five of their first six road games to start the season.
Boxscore (Yahoo Sports)

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