UCLA 80 - Arizona State 75
LAS VEGAS — In the rubber match between UCLA and Arizona State, the Pac-12 regular season champion Bruins escaped with a 80-75 win Thursday at MGM Grand Garden Arena. The Pac-12 Tournament's first quarterfinal matchup featured a battle between the Pac-12's co-freshmen of the year in Arizona State's Jahii Carson and UCLA's Shabazz Muhammad. Carson started off strong with 11 first-half points to Muhammad's two.
Muhammad flipped a switch in the halftime locker room and scored 14 points after the break to go with nine rebounds. "In the first half, I had some open looks and they didn't fall," Muhammad said. "I just tried to rebound the ball and play hard. When you do that, you get good opportunities." Carson finished with 21 points in a losing effort after setting a conference record by scoring 34 on Wednesday against Stanford.
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"I always want to win every game but I'm happy to get the chance to play with these guys," Carson added. "Of course I wanted to win the game. It's a little disappointing." The Sun Devils led by as many as 13 in the first half but the Bruins went on a 10-0 run to close the first half and open the second that narrowed the margin. Another 13-4 run midway through the second half helped them regain the lead.
UCLA also outrebounded Arizona State 39-31. "I was so happy that we won the battle of the boards today because that's been our achilles heel," UCLA coach Ben Howland said.
[Related video: Shabazz Muhammad discusses UCLA's comeback quarterfinals win]
As was the case when No. 9 seed Arizona State (21-11, 10-9 Pac-12) handed No. 1 seed UCLA (23-8, 13-5) its worst loss of the season, a 78-60 decision in Tempe, junior center Jordan Bachysnki had little trouble scoring inside. Bachynski logged 22 points and. Sophomore forward Jonathan Gilling added 17. The Bruins were lead by senior guard Larry Drew II, who finished with 20 points on 8-for-10 shooting.
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UCLA advances to Friday's the semi-final round for the first time since 2010. The Bruins will face the winner of Thursday's quarterfinal game between Arizona and Colorado. "We know we have our hands full," Howland said. "We're just really pleased to be playing another day. We're excited about the opportunity. Either way, it's hard."
Game Photos (Eric Evans Photography):