The top-seeded UCLA Bruins overcame a 15-point second-half deficit and defeated No. 8 Arizona State 80-75 in a Pac-12 tournament quarterfinal Thursday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. A quick breakdown:
How it happened: Travis Wear scored six points in the final 1:30, including a 12-foot baseline jumper that gave UCLA a 76-75 lead with a minute to play, and then a back-breaking jumper with his foot on the 3-point line that put UCLA up 78-75 with 11.3 seconds left. UCLA’s 8-1 run to end the game helped the Bruins (24-8) erase a 53-38 deficit with 16:42 to play.
They did it by catching fire late in the game while Arizona State (21-12), which played an overtime game Wednesday, ran out of gas. The Bruins, who shot 34.4 percent in the first half, made 15 of their last 25 shots. The Sun Devils, meanwhile, made only six of their final 19 shots, and without standout point guard Jahii Carson, who scored eight of the final 13 Arizona State points, it would have been a much bigger collapse.
Early on, Arizona State kept UCLA off balance with the inside play of Jordan Bachynski, outside play of Jonathan Gilling and penetration of Carson. On the other end of the court, the Sun Devils packed in their defense in a pseudo zone and dared the Bruins to shoot jump shots. The strategy took away Larry Drew II’s ability to drive and make plays as Drew, UCLA’s single-season assists leader, had only one assist at halftime.
Drew became a scorer, however, and made the Sun Devils' strategy backfire as he made two key 3-pointers down the stretch, one to give UCLA its first lead of the second half at 67-66 with 4:55 to play and another to give the Bruins a 72-70 lead with 2:32 to play.
The Sun Devils were hot from long range early on, making six of their first 11 shots from behind the arc, but did not make a 3-point shot in the final 13:15 of the game, going 0-for-5 down the stretch. Gilling, who made five of his first seven from 3-point range, missed his last four long-range attempts, including two in the final minute -- one that could have given Arizona State a lead and another that would have tied the score with three seconds to play.
Player of the game: Muhammad scored 12 of his 16 points in a seven-minute stretch during which UCLA erased a 60-48 Arizona State lead and took a 69-68 lead. He also led the team with nine rebounds -- six on the offensive glass.
Player of the game, part II: Drew had a career-high 20 points on 8-of-10 shooting, including 4-of-4 on 3-pointers. He also had four assists and played in foul trouble almost the entire game.
Player of the game, part III: Travis Wear’s clutch shots down the stretch sealed the game and showed how much he was missed when he sat out UCLA’s previous two meetings against Arizona State. The Bruins split those games, needing overtime to win at home and getting blown out in Tempe.
Stat of the game: The Bruins out-rebounded the Sun Devils 39-31. It ended an 11-game streak in which the Bruins have been out-rebounded. This same Arizona State team beat the Bruins on the glass 53-33 when they met in Tempe earlier this season.
What it means: UCLA keeps alive its hopes of doubling up with the regular-season and conference tournament titles, but more importantly can still improve its NCAA tournament seeding. The Bruins are currently projected in the 5-7 range, but can move up to a No. 4 or No. 3 and get placed somewhere west of the Rocky Mountains with continued success in the conference tournament. Arizona State, a fringe bubble team to begin with, is now almost assured of going to the NIT.
What’s next: The Bruins move on to the semifinals Friday at 6 p.m. They will face the winner of the game between No. 4 Arizona and No. 5 Colorado.