TEMPE — Head coach Bobby Hurley felt Arizona State basketball did everything it could within the flow of the game to beat UCLA Wednesday at Desert Financial Arena.
The Sun Devils played “winning basketball,” hitting 11-of-27 shots from deep, turning the ball over only six times and having four of five starters score in double figures against the Pac-12’s top scoring defense.
Hurley was happy with everything away from the free-throw line. After UCLA pulled out a 68-66 comeback win, Hurley, still steaming, said he wished he could say what he was feeling.
In the span of 10 minutes and 10 seconds to end the game, ASU was dinged with four technical fouls — center Shawn Phillips Jr. was ejected for a double tech — and a flagrant that gifted UCLA eight free throws, seven of which went in.
“I’m not going to talk about it but some responsibility certainly lies with (us) … I’m sure there’s a lot of communication and we’re the bad guys, so say hello to the bad guys,” Hurley said. “You may never see a bad guy like us again. But that’s what we were tonight. We were the bad guys. I’m sure no one else said anything except us all night.”
The game changed after a transition foul from Adam Miller on UCLA’s Lazar Stefanovic, after which jawing ensued and Phillips was escorted to the showers. Miller was hit with a flagrant, UCLA’s Adem Bona earned a technical foul and Phillips a double tech.
Stefanovic knocked down four free throws, and UCLA’s Will McClendon hit a 3 for a seven-point possession.
An Arizona State 49-43 lead was erased in less than three game seconds. UCLA was already on a 5-0 run, as a game for most of which ASU had UCLA at arm’s length became a back-and-forth barnburner.
The Sun Devils did not go away and even took a 60-56 lead. The crowd was in it and ASU started to build some momentum.
But that’s when technical No. 3 was called on Jamiya Neal at 3:50 remaining.
The fourth came after Bryant Selebangue got in the face of UCLA’s Sebastian Mack and made contact after getting called for a foul with 2:29 left in a tied game. ASU point guard Frankie Collins got into Selebangue for the lapse, although Mack missing both foul shots after the made technical free throws lessened the blow.
“I gotta be there making sure people understand in those situations, we can’t do that,” Collins said. “The refs were already telling us not to say a word, and we’re still talking. So just trying to tell him that this is a critical moment in the game and we can’t do that.”
Collins kept ASU in lock-step with a falling 3-pointer as the shot clock expired on the other end, but Mack scored four straight points and ASU didn’t tie it up again.
The Sun Devils had yet to lose at home this season.
HOW?!?!?!?!?!@Frankiecollins0 gives us the lead back 😅
— Sun Devil MBB (@SunDevilHoops) January 18, 2024
Collins and Miller led ASU with 16 points each. Neal scored 13.
UCLA trailed by as many at 15 before the second half free-throw-driven surge. The Bruins shot 17-for-23 from the line and ASU 9-for-14.
Hurley said he felt the Sun Devils were the better team on Wednesday, but now they have to regroup.
“Just try and realize that there was a lot of quality basketball that was played by our team in the first half against a really good defense,” Hurley said. “We were able to score 36 points against a team that outside of Utah held every Pac-12 opponent in the 60s up to this game, so pleased that we were able to generate offense against a very good defensive team and just look at the bright side of this somehow.”
Bobby Hurley started his press conference by saying, “I wish I could say how I really feel,” after the loss to UCLA.
On handling the technical fouls going forward: pic.twitter.com/kRDw600O9T
— Arizona Sports (@AZSports) January 18, 2024
Hurley said he will take some measures internally to address the technicals.
“We have a young team but we got to grow up early if we want to do what we say we want to do and get to the NCAA Tournament and things like that,” Collins said. “We have to mature and not let things like that happen, especially at home, you can’t give up a home game like that.”
ASU ran UCLA off the floor for spurts of the first half, playing faster and hitting 3s against a bigger team that can clog up the paint. The Sun Devils hit six 3-pointers in the opening 10 minutes, three of which came on an 11-2 run that created some separation before ASU took a 36-23 lead into the break.
Miller was a spark early, scoring or assisting on ASU’s first 11 points of the game. He attacked the rim despite UCLA’s size, and later in the half he tried to throw a rim-rocking transition tomahawk on Bruins big man Bona to no avail after contact but not foul call.
Collins used some creativity for the buzzer-beating floater to end the half after a final possession gone awry.
Ending the Half the Right Way ✔️@Frankiecollins0 patented floater 🤩
— Sun Devil MBB (@SunDevilHoops) January 18, 2024
The Sun Devils host an injury-plagued USC squad at Desert Financial Arena on Saturday at noon. The Trojans lost to Arizona on Wednesday.