UCLA senior forward GG Goloman summed up the 88-79 loss to ASU:
Well, we missed a huge opportunity that we had with the loss tonight. But, we beat Arizona on the road and not a lot of teams will be able to say they did that, so that’s a positive. But overall. I don’t feel completely satisfied by it because of tonight – but the split isn’t too bad.
The game itself was close, for the first half of the first half.
UCLA shot the ball well in the opening minutes of the first half, sinking seven of 10 field goal attempts. Welsh had seven of his 14 points in the game’s first six minutes, helping the Bruins secure a 12-7 cushion with 15:39 to play before halftime.
UCLA had an advantage inside that it kind of forgot about after starting well early. As the Daily Bruin notes:
No Bruin was able to get into an offensive rhythm aside from senior forward GG Goloman, who backed up a career-high 16-point performance against Arizona, with 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting Saturday.
UCLA’s star Aaron Holiday had a good game for about 10 minutes too, at the start and end of the game, not so much the rest of the game, as the LA Times notes.
Bruins guard Aaron Holiday was a capable distributor early with four assists in the first six minutes. He was a strong scorer late with 15 points in the final 2 minutes 42 seconds. He did very little in between those bursts of productivity and struggled to disrupt Sun Devils counterpart Tra Holder, who collected 22 points, six rebounds and four assists.
”I wasn’t tired,” said Holiday, who finished with 20 points on six-for-15 shooting to go with five assists and five turnovers in 35 minutes. “They just played better than us tonight.”
I am not sure on the not tired factor. Alford noted how big Holiday’s role is:
Coach Steve Alford said he empathized with Holiday, whose job duties entail guarding an opponent’s top wing player while leading his team in scoring and ball handling amid heavy minutes. A rare off night could easily be forgiven.
“It’s tough and it’s hard on him. You’re going against [Allonzo] Trier in the last game and then [Tra] Holder tonight. We want him to be the leading scorer, value the possession and get the ball where it needs to go. He is playing 37-38 minutes. It’s difficult. I thought he got in sync early, in terms of getting the ball to where it needed to go, and he was in sync late. But we understand what he’s going through. He’s getting the toughest assignment every night, and we can’t give him a break on that. I think he fights. Was it one of his more outstanding games? No. But we certainly understand.”
And Alford seemed to acknowledge and excuse the loss on a tired team, not just Holiday, coming off a big win:
It’s a hard prep with just a day, and we knew this was going to be a difficult trip. It’s a tough trip, and we exhausted a ton of energy on Thursday night. I thought we had great effort Thursday night, and I thought our effort was good tonight. I wish we would have been a little nastier. I think they’re giving us what they have. We only have eight guys. I think five guys played 35-plus minutes, down in Tucson. We didn’t go to the gym yesterday and didn’t want to do a shoot around this morning in order to maximize rest and did all of our prep in the hotel.
So what does it mean? One national site says:
UCLA dropped a big bubble game: Bracket Matrix listed the Bruins as a No. 11 seed in its latest NCAA Tournament projections, which came out Saturday morning.
Saturday’s loss to the Bruins may drop UCLA back out of the projected field as Steve Alford and Co. lost a big opportunity to reinforce its standing on the bubble.
The AP summed up the game and UCLA better:
UCLA moved further away from the NCAA Tournament bubble and pulled within a game of the Pac-12 lead by knocking off No. 13 Arizona 82-74 on Thursday. The Bruins played a superb all-around game, pulling away from the Wildcats to win in one of college basketball’s toughest road venues.
UCLA shot 52 percent against Arizona, making 11 shots from the 3-point arc. The Bruins kept their offensive rhythm going in the desert early against Arizona State, getting good shots inside against the smaller Sun Devils, opening up good looks from the perimeter.
The flow came to a halt midway through the first half after Arizona State tightened up, leading to a nearly eight-minute field goal-less span for the Bruins.
And that was the game. Was it the tournament? No, but does UCLA have a cushion going into the last five games? Not anymore. Whatever cushion UCLA had after beating Arizona on Thursday is now gone.