Sometimes this job is incredibly unfair. Case in point, I have to now try and recap an absolutely insane game between the UCLA Bruins and the Arizona State Sun Devils that ended because Jaime Jaquez Jr decided he did not want to play in overtime.
This may be the most impressive win for the Bruins this year? Arizona State was on an absolute hot streak coming into this game, winners of seven straight games, including a dominant win over Oregon last week to put them at the top of the Pac-12, and they did not disappoint in this one. Remy Martin again put on a show with 30 points while Rob Edwards went off from distance, scoring 23 points including going 7-9 from distance. In the last meeting, the Sun Devils ran the Bruins out of the building behind a barrage of three-point shooting, and they were equally good in this one, shooting 52.6% from deep and hitting 45.6% from the field.
And it just didn’t matter, because UCLA is the true hottest team in the conference right now.
The first half was the Jake Kyman show. Kyman had 19 points in the half and was a sniper on the court, hitting five of his seven three-point attempts. Kyman was absolutely critical in the first half offensively because UCLA in general was not very good. Non-Kyman shooters shot just 36% from the field, including a dreadful 3-7 from Chris Smith and an even-worse 2-9 from Tyger Campbell. And yet UCLA was able to go into the half with a six point lead thanks to a combination of Kyman and a fantastic defensive run that we’ve come to expect from this team.
The second half was more of a team effort from the Bruins. Despite 19 second-half points from Martin, UCLA was able to keep up offensively in part due to Cody Riley and Jalen Hill, who had 11 and 9 points in the half, respectively. Riley in particular was extremely clutch in the second half, as he went 5-6 from the free throw line, which has been his traditional weakness. Again, UCLA went cold offensively, especially with ASU focusing on limiting Kyman’s touches, and the team only shot 39.3% from the field in the half which allowed the Sun Devils to claw their way back into the game and turn the final 10 minutes into a back-and-forth affair.
This is where I will now eschew the usual recap style and give a play-by-play of the final minute. UCLA was down one in the final minute when Tyger Campbell drew a crucial 5th foul on ASU bench star Alonzo Verge Jr. Campell only hit one of his two free throw attempts to tie the game, which gave the Sun Devils the ball with 40 seconds remaining. Everyone in the building knew Remy Martin would be taking the shot, and Mick Cronin sent multiple defenders at him, which led to a very-bad miss on a three-point attempt. UCLA had the ball out of bounds with 16 seconds left, and Cronin again decided not to call timeout and instead run a play, which was honestly an amazing bit of strategy; Arizona State had been out of timeouts for almost the final eight minutes of the game, and Cronin did not want to give Bobby Hurley a chance to set his defense for the final shot. The bit of strategy worked, as UCLA worked through first-option Campbell, who eventually gave the ball to Jaquez. Jaquez realized he had an open look and took it, burying the go-ahead three to give the Bruins the lead with 0.05 seconds left. A last second heave downcourt was grabbed by Jaquez to seal the victory.
And now for a statement that I’m sure no one expected to hear this year: with two games left in the regular season schedule, UCLA is in a tie for first place in the conference. Suddenly the Bruins look to be in great shape for a first-round bye in the conference tournament, and somehow UCLA looks to have a shot at making the NCAA tournament. They’re certainly one of the hottest teams in the country at the moment, and a win over Arizona on Saturday would give them another excellent Quad 1 victory.
It’s time to rally behind this team. See you on Saturday.
Jake Kyman led the Bruins with 21 points. Jalen Hill led the team with 8 rebounds, while Tyger Campbell led the team with 14 assists. Remy Martin led the Sun Devils with 30 points.
- Player of the Game: Jake Kyman - Kyman single-handedly kept the Bruins in the game in the first half. He was a one-man flamethrower, and for that he’s the easy choice here.
- Area of Concern: Offensive inconsistency - I left it out of the good time fun up above, but UCLA had multiple chances to put this game away in the second half, and they weren’t able to because the offense just could not get out of its own way. The defense was able to hold its own for a good amount of time, but it’s hard to stop a team with ASU’s firepower for too long. That said, UCLA was able to push the lead up to nine multiple times in the second half, and they couldn’t push the lead further. It’s not UCLA’s strong-suit, obviously, but that seems like the next step for this program: putting teams away.
- Someone please check on Bobby Hurley - Last week Oregon State head coach Wayne Tinkle got a weak technical foul call. Yet somehow Bobby Hurley avoided getting one in this one. Hurley was out of control on the sideline, and despite all of the fun players on his team, Hurley makes it hard to root positively for them. I’m also just generally concerned for his blood pressure. Someone please get UCLA Medical on the scene for a post-game wellness check.
UCLA next plays on Saturday with another round of the conference’s best basketball rivalry, as the Arizona Wildcats come to Pauley. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 PM PT.