The Arizona State Sun Devils were wearing their throwback uniforms last night, but it felt like a throwback game to the non-conference schedule for the UCLA Bruins. That’s because ASU destroyed UCLA from the three-point line en route to an 84-66 final. A common theme in UCLA’s biggest and worst losses of the season to Oregon and Cal State Fullerton, respectively, was the opponent destroying UCLA from three. Boy was that on display last night. Ben Bolch of the LA Times writes:
Arizona State, the worst team in the Pac-12 Conference at making three-pointers, couldn’t miss for long stretches Thursday night at Desert Financial Arena. The Sun Devils hoisted three-pointers on drive-and-kick plays, in transition and on step-back moves. The result was almost always the same.
Arizona State made eight of 10 three-pointers in the first half on the way to an 84-66 victory over the Bruins that was a throwback to some of their defensive struggles from earlier this season.
The old script was there: Get the ball inside, kick and hit an open three.* The Associated Press describes it:
Down one of its best big men, UCLA threw double teams at Romello White all night.
Arizona State’s big man did a good job of kicking it out to his teammates on the perimeter for open shots.
And the Pac-12’s worst 3-point shooting team made them. Lots of them.
How bad was it? Ryan Smith writes in the Daily Bruin:
Four different players made at least three 3s each for Arizona State, with three of the four failing to miss a single attempt. Guard Alonzo Verge Jr. finished the night as the Sun Devils’ leading scorer, pouring in 26 points on 10-of-16 shooting.
Now in fairness to Coach Cronin and the Bruins, sometimes, the defense was good and the shots were insane. If this was the Steve Lavin era, we would have heard him wax on how ASU played at a “magical level.” Coach Cronin’s take is, therefore, interesting and worthy of consideration:
Well, I think with the mark of a young team, is that we don’t handle adversity quite the way we need to. I thought when they hit some tough shots, we let it bother us too much. We let it bother us. We’re on defense, feeling sorry for ourselves a little bit because Kimani Lawrence is six-for-38 on the year from three and he opens up the first half and goes three for three. No. 20 [Khalid Thomas] comes in, he bangs — he’s two for two. But yeah, we’ve got to get over that. That’s what… is all about. We can’t, when a team’s doing that, you’ve got to keep your mind on the game plan and the scouting report.
So, Cronin thinks it was some bad luck combined with the team losing its composure. That is an interesting take. In another press conference, Coach Cronin expressed sympathy for Colorado Coach Tad Boyle when Prince Ali hit three threes in the first half against them. Karma came back on Cronin in spades. Still, his point is valid and much preferred to the BS of Lavin. The team is responsible even when the other team is hot.
Tyger Campbell also has an interesting point about when our defense is bad.
Obviously, they shot the ball very well, but a lot of it was our transition defense. We didn’t get back.
Obviously, that is what happened against Oregon.
I put the asterisk above because, while some of the shots were open, some of it was unexpected guys hitting difficult threes.
While it’s not an excuse, it also hurt to be without Jalen Hill on the road. This was a tough game and you can’t expect UCLA to play perfect every game out this season. So, it was a bad night, but this is not like the way it was at the beginning of the season when it looked like shooting practice for open threes for opponents.
Go Bruins! Beat the Wildcats!