The Bruins may not win many games with their defense this season, but as they demonstrated today, they have plenty of offensive weapons.
UCLA relied on inside scoring to start the game. Three baskets by Tony Parker and a put back by Thomas Welsh accounted for eight of the Bruins’ first 10 points. But UCLA wasn’t shooting well from the perimeter, and after a timeout, UCLA went back inside, finding Welsh for a pair of dunks to give the Bruins a 14-12 lead with 11 minutes left in the half.
The Bruins were struggling to separate from Arizona State until UCLA turned up the defensive intensity when Prince Ali came in for Bryce Alford. The defensive pressure resulted in four Sun Devil turnovers, which the Bruins turned into an 11 point lead at the 8:34 mark.
Thirty seconds later, Welsh picked up his second foul and headed to the bench for the rest of the half.
Arizona State managed to stop the bleeding and slowly began to chip away at the lead. With 3:23 left in the half, ASU was within four. When Parker picked up his second foul and joined Welsh on the bench, the Sun Devils were down by just three at 31-28.
Two minutes later, a three-pointer by Tra Holder knotted the score at 33. A deep ball by Bryce Alford gave the Bruins the lead again, but ASU continued to score on each possession. A pair of free throws by Holder was followed by a layup by Jonah Bolden, which was followed by a layup by Holder. Aaron Holiday missed a three as the clock expired, giving the Bruins a 38-37 lead at the break.
Alford led the Bruins in scoring in the first half with 9, but finished the first 20 minutes with a +/- of -10. Welsh and Parker had 8 and 6 points, respectively, and Isaac Hamilton had 7 points.
The Sun Devils took charge in the opening minutes of the second half. A little over a minute into the second, Holiday was heading to the bench with his third foul, and a three-pointer by Willie Atwood gave Arizona State a 41-38 lead.
Less than a minute later, Parker joined Holiday on the bench when he picked up his third foul. The Sun Devils extended their lead to five on a jumper by Holder, and Steve Alford responded by using a timeout.
The Bruins came out of the timeout in a 3-2 zone with Bolden at the top. But UCLA struggled to score, prompting Steve Alford to put Aaron Holiday back on the floor with three fouls.
The move sparked a mini run by the Bruins. When Hamilton nailed a three-pointer with 13:25 left in the game, the score was tied at 50, and Arizona State needed a timeout.
A minute and a half later, ASU was up by six. UCLA fought back again. A layup and a jumper by Bryce Alford made the score 56-54, and on the next possession, a pair of free throws by Welsh tied the score at 56.
A three by Holiday gave UCLA a 59-58 lead, but Holder replied with a three of his own, and followed up with a layup on the Sun Devils’ next possession. Hamilton then took over, reclaiming the lead for the Bruins with eight straight points.
With 4:12 left in the game, a deep three by Kodi Justice levelled the score at 68. The lead changed hands half a dozen times in the next three minutes, but Holiday put the Bruins in front for good with a three-pointer. UCLA led 77-74 with just 1:13 left in the game.
The Sun Devils wouldn’t score again, missing four three-pointers in the final minute. A triple by Alford and a free throw by Hamilton sealed the Bruins' 81-74 victory over Arizona State and evened UCLA’s conference record at 2-2.
Isaac Hamilton finished with 26 points to pace UCLA. Bryce Alford added 18 with an excellent 7-11 shooting performance. Thomas Welsh registered a double-double with 12 points and 16 boards, and Aaron Holiday added 10 points.
UCLA has a single game next week—a mid-week battle with Southern Cal—before a road trip to Oregon the following week. Considering how much trouble the Bruins have had on the road this season and last, UCLA needs to keep winning in southern California.