(Photo: Scotty Bara/WCSN)
In a matchup that was hotly contested throughout most of the game, the Arizona State Sun Devils suffered a tough loss to the hands of the UCLA Bruins by a final score of 81-74.
Sophomore guard Tra Holder led the way for ASU, dropping a career-high 26 points to go along with three assists and two rebounds. Holder carried the offensive load for the Sun Devils, as he was one of only two ASU players to score in double-figures.
UCLA junior guard Isaac Hamilton had arguably his best game of the season for the Bruins putting up 26 points on an efficient 8-for-16 shooting.
ASU went up 74-72 with two minutes left to play, but UCLA went on a 9-0 run to close out the game. It began with two free throws by Hamilton and a three-pointer by freshman guard Aaron Holiday.
With UCLA now up 77-74 with just over a minute remaining, ASU could not score on the offensive end as it had struggled to do all evening. On the next UCLA possession, junior guard Bryce Alford nailed a three-pointer with 27 seconds left that sealed the game for the Bruins.
The offensive execution by UCLA and the lack of execution by ASU proved to be the difference in what was a nail-biter of a game.
Player of the Game: Tra Holder
Although it is becoming a given at this point, Holder continues to shine for the Sun Devils. He scored 16 of his 26 points in the second half to keep ASU in the game until the very end. When nothing would fall for the rest of the team, Holder willed the Sun Devils to the finish but fell just short.
Biggest Concern: Outside shooting
The worst three-point shooting team in the Pac-12 continued its struggles in Pauley Pavilion. ASU shot just 8-for-24 from behind the arc in the game and had a tough time getting anything to drop.
In the final two minutes of the game, ASU went 0-for-5 from the field. It took a plethora of contested jump shots, and it came back to bite them in the end.
Unsung Hero: Kodi Justice
Albeit in a losing effort, sophomore guard Kodi Justice had an efficient game, going 4-for-7 from the field. Justice, who leads the team in three-point shooting, also went 3-for-6 from three-point range and scored 11 points.
Justice showed in this game that he could hold his own on the road in tough environments and still put up points. With a little more consistency, he is a bright spot for ASU down the road.
Stat of the Night: 26 points
Holder scored his career-high in points with 26 in the game on 9-for-14 shooting. He has raised his career-high in three of the last four games and is averaging 23.7 points per game so far in conference play.
The bad part is that ASU also gave up 26 to junior guard Isaac Hamilton of UCLA. Hamilton exerted his will upon the Sun Devil defense, creating offense for himself by finishing at the rim and making open shots when the opportunities arose.
The Sun Devils head back home to Tempe to take on Washington State on Thursday, Jan. 14.