Going into this Pac-12 contest with an Arizona State team that had suspended three players - two of them starters, including Keala King, the team’s leading scorer, who has since left the team – the UCLA Bruins sensed an opportunity to make a statement in putting away a conference opponent that they were expected to beat handily.
Led by Joshua Smith, who showed no ill effects from a recently suffered concussion in scoring a game-high 18 points – many of them of the down-low dunk kind as he made eight of his 12 shots - and Travis Wear’s 16 points and seven rebounds, the Bruins used a 46-18 advantage in the paint and a gradual wearing down of the Sun Devils, who were playing with only six scholarship players and had one walk-on in their rotation, to beat them 75-59 before 9,076 at the Honda Center this past Saturday, finishing a perfect 4-0 in that building.
The win was UCLA’s second in a row, securing a sweep of the Arizona schools after getting swept in the Bay Area, evening their Pac-12 Conference record to 2-2 and their overall mark to 9-7.
UCLA’s runs of 19-6 in the last 9:48 if the first half and 14-0 in the second half were more than enough to finish ASU. Here are the highlights of the win courtesy of uclabruins.com:
“I thought that Josh had his best game of the year,” coach Ben Howland said. “he was agrressive to score. When he was going to dunk it, he was going to dunk it…and it was really fun to see.”
It’s also apparent that the Bruins’ center had taken the challenge of dropping pounds and getting in shape to heart, as he has performed better over the past few weeks and has shown more energy, particularly against the Sun Devils as by game’s end they were like a boxer that was clearly tiring in the ring and wanted his manager to throw in the towel.
Lazeric Jones’s shooting was off, as he made only three of his ten shots and finished with eight points, but his ten assists made up for that. David Wear’s nine rebounds were also a key, and Tyler Trapani, the great-grandson of John Wooden, was able to enter the game in the last minute, a sign that UCLA had things well in hand.
Hopefully this solid play and positive momentum will continue as their crosstown rivalry with USC renews this coming Sunday. A preview of that game will be coming later this week.