When it was all said and done, the disappointment was palpable.
After battling all night on the road, Arizona State lost an important Pac-12 showdown with the UCLA Bruins, putting its chances of an NCAA tournament berth at ever-greater risk.
Arizona State fell to UCLA (21-7, 11-4 Pac-12) 79-74 in overtime at Pauley Pavilion. The game came down to a furious rally by freshman ASU point guard Jahii Carson, followed by a sequence of missed shots by other players, which could have resulted in a much-needed victory for the Sun Devils.
ASU has now lost four of its last six games and stands at 20-9, 9-7 in the Pac-12.
Carson, who’s earned a reputation for his fierce competitiveness, recorded 22 points and seven assists. He paced the Sun Devils with seven points in the closing minutes of the game. Senior wing Carrick Felix also had a strong performance with 16 points and a career-high 18 rebounds.
In the end, the two players left it all on the court — and their frustration was obvious.
Carson said, “We’ve worked too hard to start losing games at the end of the season. We’re supposed to be playing our best basketball.”
Felix had a similar reaction to the loss: “We’ve just got to fight a little bit harder. Our road (to the NCAA tournament) is going to be a little bit tougher.”
ASU carried a 41-39 lead into intermission by shooting 53.3 percent from the field in the opening 20 minutes. UCLA shot a modest 43.3 percent in the first half but kept the game close by draining all eight of its free throws.
The closing minutes of the contest were not kind to the Sun Devils. With UCLA leading 77-74, ASU junior guard Evan Gordon had a clear look at the basket but missed his three-point shot. Gordon finished the game 0 for 5. Sophomore forward Jonathan Gilling, who had a hot hand with six three-point buckets on the evening, rebounded Gordon’s miss with 30 seconds left and launched a hurried three-point try. The shot was off the mark and the Bruins recovered the ball.
UCLA controlled overtime, outscoring ASU 9-4. Freshman guard Jordan Adams scored six points, hitting a crucial layup when the Bruins were clinging to a one-point lead and finishing with 22 points. Guard Kyle Anderson had 21 points and 15 rebounds of his own, and freshman Shabazz Muhammad added 21 points.
Arizona State now travels to USC on Saturday for a meeting with the resurgent Trojans, who just defeated Arizona. The Sun Devils then close out the regular season with a rivalry slugfest against the Wildcats in Tucson.