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ASU Men’s Basketball: A second-half slump dooms Sun Devils against UCLA

(Photo: Scotty Bara/WCSN)

A second-half shooting slump doomed the Arizona State Sun Devils as they fell to the UCLA Bruins 78-65.

Junior forward Obinna Oleka led the way for the Sun Devils, scoring 14 points and grabbing 13 rebounds. UCLA forward Jonah Bolden helped control the game for the Bruins with 16 points and nine rebounds.

The first half was hotly contested, with both teams starting out strong offensively. ASU was on fire from the field, connecting on 47 percent of their shots from the field and going 7-for-13 from three-point range.

Sophomore guard Kodi Justice and junior forward Obinna Oleka did most of the damage for the Sun Devils, combining for 16 points on 6-for-11 shooting in the first half.

For UCLA, the main source of offense was guard Bryce Alford. Alford had an excellent start to the game, scoring nine points, dishing six assists, and grabbing four rebounds, all in the first half.

Neither team had a major edge throughout the first 20 minutes. There were four lead changes and the largest lead for either team was only seven points. The Bruins took a slim 37-35 lead into the half.

The second half gave way to a much different storyline for ASU, as they could not get any of their shots to fall. The Sun Devils shot just 9-for-29 from the field and missed everything from layups to open three-point shots.

Turnovers were a big story for the Sun Devils as they gave the ball up 15 times, leading to 16 points for the Bruins.

After making only three of their first 13 shots in the second half, ASU found itself down by double digits following a three-pointer by UCLA guard Prince Ali with 7:19 left.

From there, the lead never got within 10 as UCLA opened up the lead to as many as 17 en route to the final margin of victory.

Player of the Game: Obinna Oleka

Obinna Oleka had an excellent all-around game against UCLA, scoring 14 points to go along with 13 boards. Oleka pounded the Bruins down low and was able to hit the open looks he was given.

Oleka’s 13 rebounds were a season-high and anytime he was in the game, UCLA struggled to get rebounds away from him. Oleka also added four assists to tie Justice for the team-high in the game.

Stat of the Night: 31 percent

After a respectable first half, the Sun Devils shooting percentage slipped all the way down to 31 percent in the second half. Missed shots were ultimately the issue for ASU and the missed free throws put the nail in the coffin.

Biggest Concern: Free throw shooting

ASU left a lot of points at the line that could have easily contributed to a closer margin of defeat. The Sun Devils only made nine of their 19 free throws for the game.

For a team that shoots about 70 percent from the line for the season, making only 47 percent in the game significantly hurt the Sun Devils’ chances of winning.

Unsung Hero: Andre Spight

Spight had a spectacular game from distance, shooting 5-for-7 from three-point range for 21 points. Spight made most of his shots and was able to draw contact and go to the line when UCLA’s guards closed out hard.

Spight got fouled on three-point attempts on three separate occasions in the second half, making six of his nine free throws. His offensive contribution was the only real bright spot on that side of the ball for ASU.

What’s Next?

ASU will travel to Tucson to take on the Arizona Wildcats on February 17th.



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