Sun Devils Hold Back Upset-Happy UCLA Bruins
By TJ Mathewson // Men’s Basketball Beat Writer for Blaze Sports
TEMPE, Ariz. — Against USC Thursday, both Tra Holder and Shannon Evans scored over 20. ASU won. Saturday? The seniors did it again in ASU’s (19-6, 7-6 Pac-12) 88-79 win over UCLA (17-8, 8-5 Pac-12).
This was the first conference weekend sweep under third-year coach Bobby Hurley.
“Guard U”, featuring Holder, Evans, Kodi Justice and Remy Martin combined for 69 of ASU’s 88 points.
“It was just great to be able to go out there and play the way we did,” Justice said. “Just sharing the ball and making shots, it was just great.”
Both teams entered the night coming off of huge wins. ASU beating USC 80-78 off a clutch shot from Tra Holder, a game in which they trailed by double-digits late. UCLA, on the other hand, went down to Tucson and knocked off the Arizona Wildcats 82-74.
Right from the tip, both teams were scorching hot from the field. Justice knocked down his first two 3-pointers after going 0-for-6 from behind the arc on Thursday again.
After that game, Justice stayed after and shot baskets until early Friday morning. It seemed to pay off for the senior.
Justice ended the night with 17 points on an efficient 7-for-11 shooting night and 2-for-4 from behind the arc.
“He’s been a special player in this program to coach,” Hurley said. “I’m just really happy for him to step up and play this well on both sides in a game like this.”
Despite shooting a combined 12/36 for the field, both Shannon Evans and Tra Holder were on point throughout the game.
The Sun Devils have struggled with free throws at times this season, but not on Saturday night, shooting a sparkling 25-for-28 from the line.
This has been the breakout week for freshman forward Kimani Lawrence. Two days after scoring seven points, Lawrence recorded eight points, seven rebounds, three steals and a block Saturday night.
“He gets in the game, he works hard and he works hard in practice. So it’s not surprising that he’s doing so well,” Hurley said on Lawrence. ‘Remember, (his minutes and play) wouldn’t be a problem if he never got injured.”
Holder finished with 23 points, six rebounds and four assists, while Evans had 23 points.
After going back and forth for much of the first nine minutes, ASU trailed by four after UCLA’s sophomore guard Prince Ali cashed in on a layup. The Sun Devils would then go on a 13-2 run to build their lead.
A Shannon Evans layup, another Evans 3-pointer, A Tra Holder 3-pointer and another Evans three propelled the Sun Devils ahead and helped them keep their lead at the half 40-32.
ASU held UCLA at arm’s length the rest of the game, not allowing the Bruins closer than eight points in the second half.
A big part of what is holding down UCLA guard Aaron Holiday, who only recorded five points in non-garbage time. The Sun Devils looked very fast and coordinated on the defensive end Saturday night.
“(With so many guys playing well,) we were just able to play a bigger zone. That’s what a guy like Kimani brings while he’s on the floor, with his wingspan. We were active with deflections,” Hurley said on his defense.
This is the first time since the non-conference schedule, a time where ASU went 12-0, that the Sun Devils have won three in a row.
Last time they were on that win streak, it was ended by the first place Arizona Wildcats. ASU will get their redemption shot at the ‘Cats in Tempe, Thursday.
TJ Mathewson is a beat writer for Blaze Sports covering ASU Men’s Basketball. You can reach out to him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow TJ on Twitter @TJMathewson.