(Photo: Nicholas Badders/WCSN)
For the first time since March 7, 2015, ASU has swept a weekend series during conference play.
The Sun Devils had arguably their best Pac-12 performance, breezing by UCLA 88-79.
It was evident early on that this would be a high scoring affair, as UCLA led 17-14 just over six minutes in.
ASU made its move about midway through the first half, down 22-18, going on an 8-0 run behind senior guards Shannon Evans II and Tra Holder to go ahead by four.
“It was good flow to the game, it wasn’t a choppy game,” coach Bobby Hurley said, “especially early it was kind of up and down the way we like to play.”
Senior Kodi Justice had scored 10 of the team’s first 18 points, and he joined Evans II as the early leading scorers with 10 points each just over 10 minutes into the game.
The Sun Devils stayed hot, finishing the half ahead 40-32- their 2nd largest halftime lead in Pac-12 play.
ASU started the second half just as strong as it finished the first, as an Evans three-pointer gave the Sun Devils their first double-digit lead.
“We came out the right way to start the second half,” Hurley said. “Kind of built the lead up, and from there it kind of stayed in a pretty narrow range back and fourth.”
From then on, the Bruins couldn’t bring the deficit within eight.
Evans (23 points), Holder (22) and Justice (17) continued to consistently make shots and draw fouls, helping the Sun Devils shoot 25-28 from free throw line.
“You need that,” coach Hurley said. “As the year progresses and as you get to postseason you want to have guards that are elite, that can be playmakers, that make great decisions.”
Outside of the senior trio, freshman Kimani Lawrence provided a huge lift off the Sun Devil bench.
The big man got a series of steals about halfway through the second half, and that seemed to spark what turned out to be an impressive all-around performance in the 16 minutes he played.
Lawrence led the bench with 8 points, and led the entire team with 3 steals and 7 rebounds on the night.
“You guys didn’t get to see him preseason and overseas, he’s going to be a special player,” Holder said. “He’s level-headed and he works super hard so I’m proud of him and happy for him and he’s going to keep doing well the rest of the year.”
Late in the second half UCLA showed flashes of a comeback, most notably when junior guard Aaron Holiday made consecutive threes to cut the deficit to nine just under the two-minute mark.
Holiday scored the next nine Bruins points after that, but Evans, Holder, Justice and freshman guard Remy Martin combined to shoot 10-12 from the foul line to ice the game.
“Our coaching staff does a great job keeping us ready to go,” Holder said. “I’ve never had a coach that has inspirational speeches before the game. He gets me hype, even the day before a game I’m ready to play because the way he talks- he’s furious and ready to go, so you know that’s really instilled in me and the rest of my team.”
UCLA falls to 17-8 and 8-5 in conference play with the loss, while ASU improves to 19-6 and 7-6 in the Pac-12 with the win.
The Sun Devils next game will be against No. 13 Arizona Thursday night at 7 in Tempe.