No. 5 UCLA finds way to hold off Arizona State, extends win streak to 14


UCLA’s Tyger Campbell (10) drives around Arizona State’s Austin Nunez (2) during the first half on Thursday in Tempe, Ariz. (Darryl Webb/UK Time News)

Just keep finding a way.

Such was the mandate for UCLA on Thursday night, the fifth-ranked Bruins faltered late in their Pac-12 Conference showdown with Arizona State as they jeopardized the nation’s longest winning streak among major conference teams.

Extending the streak would keep the midseason fun going while preventing the Sun Devils from tying the conference standings. It would also put UCLA halfway through a desert battle that ESPN’s Joe Lunardi said could expect the team to take No. 1 in the NCAA tournament.

Everything stayed in the game after the Bruins’ final breakout, a 74-62 victory at the Desert Financial Arena that was courtesy of more late gutsy play.

Smothered for most of a night slamming two layups and back-to-back free throws, UCLA’s Jaime Jaquez Jr. a three-pointer late in the shot clock to give his team a six-point lead with about 21/2 minutes left. He added a turnaround jumper to extend the advantage as part of a game-ending 16-2 run.

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“I knew my shot would fall when it had to fall,” said Jaquez, who was able to smile after taking just four of 12 shots for nine points. “I’m not really worried about that.”

The Bruins (17-2 overall, 8-0 Pac-12) needed the additional offense with Tyger Campbell and David Singleton carrying such a heavy load. Campbell led his team with 22 points and Singleton had 21 while making four of six three-pointers.

The top scorers also led their team’s 14 celebrationse consecutive victory, Campbell patting his forehead with clenched fists and Singleton holding his hand to one ear as he watched a record student section of 5,213 go silent in the nearly sold-out crowd of 13,363.

“It’s been fun flying under the radar the last few months,” UCLA coach Mick Cronin said as he addressed just two reporters after a game called by outside FS1 transmitters. “Because of what happened in it [Las] Vegas, I think people have given up on us.

Cronin alluded to his team’s two losses, which came in the space of three days at the end of November. Illinois and Baylor prevailed over the Bruins, largely due to success making three-pointers, a formula Arizona State (15-4, 6-2) attempted to duplicate.

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The Sun Devils made nine of 22 shots from outside the arc, including one by Frankie Collins that pushed them to a 60-58 lead before UCLA began its final wave. Arizona State’s late game performance faltered against a defense that tightened considerably.

Sun Devils guard DJ Horne was left scoreless in the second half after bombing the Bruins for 14 points at halftime.

UCLA's Jamie Jaquez Jr.  is greeted by Dylan Andrews after hitting a three-pointer against Arizona State.

UCLA’s Jamie Jaquez Jr. (24) is greeted by Dylan Andrews (2) after hitting a three-pointer against Arizona State late in the second half on Thursday in Tempe, Ariz. (Darryl Webb/UK Time News)

“We’re one of the best defensive teams in the country,” Cronin said after Arizona State closed out the game by taking just one of the last eight shots, “and we’ve proven it on this winning streak.”

Somehow, once again with a shorthanded position while Amari Bailey sat out for the sixth straight due to left foot discomfort, the Bruins kept finding the energy to come back.

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Trailing by as much as six points, the Bruins swung into a 58–57 lead with 6:34 left when freshman center Adem Bona made one of two free throws after a Singleton corner three-pointer tied the score. Several of Singleton’s shots came from passes from Jaquez, who made five assists as he found the open teammate.

“They tend to swarm and attack the dribbler,” Cronin said, “and the plan was to find Dave if they did.”

UCLA also wanted to squeeze more production out of a bank held scoreless against Colorado last weekend. That mission was doubly important as the Arizona state rotation goes 10 deep.

Freshman guard Dylan Andrews sparked off the bench with five quick points in the first half – plus a technical foul for apparent taunting after getting caught up in a mid-air dunk with Arizona State’s Devan Cambridge and something to his Sun for that Devils counterpart said back down the court.

Andrews finished with seven points, all trailing his team.

“Dylan’s baskets tonight, huge,” Cronin said. “I’m talking about a real team, in this environment that gives a lot of confidence for his future.”

A notable reinforcement could arrive before the end of the weekend. Cronin said Bailey looked good in the team’s shootaround on Thursday and may play against Arizona on Saturday depending on how he felt on Friday.

This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.


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