Sun Devil MBB edged by UCLA, 80-79
By Brandon Jones
LOS ANGELES – The Sun Devil men's basketball team led or was tied with Pac-12 co-leader UCLA for all but one second of its game against the Bruins on Saturday night. Unfortunately for the Sun Devils, that one second was the final one of the game as UCLA's Jaylen Clark scored his only point of the game on a free throw with 1.4 seconds remaining to lift the Bruins over the Sun Devils, 80-79.
Senior guards Remy Martin and Alonzo Verge Jr. led the way for the Sun Devils (7-11, 4-8 Pac-12), scoring 25 and 18 points, respectively. Senior forward Kimani Lawrence had his best game of the season, scoring 18 points and grabbing nine rebounds.
UCLA (16-5, 12-3) was led by Cody Riley who scored 17 points.
ASU had one of its best performances of the season from beyond the arc, knocking down 10-of-20 three-pointers. The Sun Devils also took care of the ball, dishing out 13 assists with only five turnovers.
"I thought we played a winning game," ASU head coach Bobby Hurley said. "I thought we played really well through the majority of the game. We just didn't make one more play that was necessary in order to win, whether that was defensive rebounds or someone hitting a shot, it just didn't work out. As the game wound down, we just made too many mistakes in the last two minutes of the game."
The short-handed Sun Devils were without freshman stars Josh Christopher and Marcus Bagley, who were both out with injuries. Starting sophomore forward Jalen Graham spent the entire game in foul trouble, and Hurley believes it was one of the factors that cost the Sun Devils the game.
"We did some nice things," Hurley said. "Remy had a really good first half and Alonzo Verge was better on offense. Kimani was really good in the second half making free throws and being active. We had a number of guys who performed well. We [also got into] foul trouble. I don't know how many minutes [Jalen Graham] played, but I don't think he got double figure minutes tonight and we need him on the floor. I thought Chris [Osten] did a very serviceable job through his time out there and John [Olmsted] came in and did what he could at the end."
The Sun Devils jumped out to a 12-2 lead on the road and led for nearly the whole game until a Bruin free throw tied the game with 38 seconds remaining. Sun Devil senior guard Holland Woods missed a 3-pointer and Clark was fouled with just 1.4 seconds left. He missed the first free throw but made the second. Verge's half-court attempt to win the game at the buzzer was too strong denying ASU's upset bid.
The Sun Devils return to Tempe to host Washington on Tuesday (7 p.m. MST/Pac-12 Networks and 98.7 FM) and Thursday (5 p.m. MST/FS1 and ESPN 620 AM).
COACH BOBBY HURLEY
"I thought we played a winning game. I thought we played really well through the majority of the game. We just didn't make one more play that was necessary in order to win, whether that was defensive rebounds or someone hitting a shot, it just didn't work out. As the game wound down, we just made too many mistakes in the last two minutes of the game.
Do you think it's a matter of too many elements (injuries, foul trouble) that are stacked against you right now?
"We did some nice things; Remy had a really good first half and Alonzo Verge was better on offense. Kimani was really good in the second half making free throws and being active. We had a number of guys who performed well, we get touched on the foul trouble. JG [Jalen Graham] I don't know how many minutes he played but I don't think he got double figure minutes tonight and we need him on the floor. I thought Chris did a very serviceable job through his time out there and Jon came in and did what he could at the end."
With your limited post options, was that a factor with the guys on the bench or did you feel like guys were too quick with their shot selection tonight?
"Not really, we don't have someone we can throw the ball inside to with that particular lineup. We just want to get the ball into Remy's hands, I think he's earned it over his career, he had a couple of opportunities when they went zone. I thought we did a good job getting Holland the shot in the corner, it didn't go down. I didn't love the play where Remy was maybe off balanced and fouled Tyler Campbell. At that point with 39 seconds, you really hope that the worst-case scenario they have to go down and use clock and you know you're going to get the ball back and it's going to be in a tied game or down one in the worst-case scenario. Things just did not go our way in any shape or form in that last minute.
Was it close for Marcus Bagley to play tonight and what went into that decision and how close was he from being able to play tonight?
"Today was how we utilized his workout was getting into pregame warmup. He was a limited participant yesterday; he did all of our non-live segments and he also did a lot of shooting. He's trying really hard to get back but he's not ready yet. We can't rush him back so we're going to make sure he's right. I am proud that he's out there and trying to get back.
What did you think of the limited run you were able to get from Jalen Graham and Christ Osten coming off the ankle that's been bothering him and also how Kimani did in light with how short you were in the front court?
"I thought his first foul was a really tough foul with the way I looked at it. But then after that he gets tangled up with Cody Riley and he was on the wrong side with a few of those. With JG, I think especially with his fourth [foul], he's got to have better judgment in that situation knowing he's got three and that it was an obvious foul and it's going to get called every time. He was never able to get in any kind of rhythm out there based on the foul issues. It reminded me of early in the season with some of his initial games and Chris is moving better, he's doing better with his ankle. He was more mobile and got a couple of offensive rebounds for us and generated some extra possessions, I thought he did a pretty good job."
How would you evaluate Jalen House's defense on Tyler Campbell?
"That's what he does and does a good job on the defensive end. He got on a loose ball in the second half on their baseline. He made some nice plays and he's always going to play like that at the other end of the floor and bring good energy."
What was your take on Remy's last couple of shots?
"The one I didn't like was I think the three that he tried that was a little off-balanced and was a little deep and I'll have to review when exactly that transpired. Other than that, we wanted him to try and drive and get in the lane. I know he drew a few people when he lost possession of the ball and maybe him seeing the entire floor, where the help is coming off of and trying to locate a teammate. But again, you said it, he's made a lot of big shots here and he had a game going so obviously we wanted the ball in his hands late."
What did you think of the last play that resulted in the UCLA free throws?
"Again, we don't have our center in there or our backup center in there. Kimani did an unbelievable job of trying to battle and rebound for us. They missed and tried to tip it and we couldn't get our hands on the basketball. It was a 50/50 and they were able to secure it and get a foul. It appeared to be a foul to me from where I looked at it and they made a free throw and that was it."
Having so many close games, how important is it keep your heads up and finish the season?
"Like I told the guys in the locker room, it's very important not to put our heads down, we have a bigger goal. It's a learning lesson, we just got to learn how to close out games. I told them this feeling that we have right now, feel it because we don't want this feeling in a week from now. We wanted to have momentum coming into the tournament, it didn't happen, but we see what we're capable of doing.
What do you think was the main issue was for you guys in giving up the late lead?
"At the end of the day, it relies on me and Remy, we got to make better decisions. We took some shots we make normally; it was a close game, so we just got to get cleaner looks and we would've been fine. Remy took a shot that I know he makes nine times out of ten, I took a mid-range pull up that I make nine times out of ten, but we just wanted to get some clean looks which we didn't get any clean looks and it was forced."
Is there something to be said when you're missing Josh, Marcus and you have your two frontcourt players, Jalen and Chris foul out, do you think guys like you and Remy make uncharacteristic decision-making down the stretch due to the lack of bodies?
"Absolutely, I would say just trying to be the person who tries to make superhero plays. Those are the plays me and Remy have to try not to do because it gets the team dysfunctional. Marcus and Joshua are big pieces to our team. Those guys bring a lot of energy, length and size, and we are missing those two a lot. I feel like we had enough tonight, Kimani stepped up big time, I was proud of him. John and him coming off the bench and just giving everything he got. We have guys that are going to step up and finishing it out.
How hard is it to not let the frustration get to you?
"It's very hard; it is very very hard. We've been through so much this season with the ups and downs, it's just been a rocky season it feels like we can't get up the hill. It feels like as soon as we do, we win two games in a row and then we have to stop [because of] COVID. Then we get it rolling, and then Marcus gets hurt, then Josh gets hurt, those are key guys that are very important to us that we need. It's just about working with what we got now and just trying to keep our heads up and me and Remy being leaders and just keep these guys motivated every day and pushing them every day."