LAS VEGAS — For most of the game, UCLA chased Arizona State all over the floor. The Bruins finally caught up when it mattered.
Top-seeded and No. 21 UCLA avoided an upset with an 80-75 victory over the Sun Devils in the Pac-12 tournament quarterfinals, overcoming a 15-point second-half deficit when Travis Wear scored six consecutive points in the final 90 seconds and ASU missed the sort of shots it had been making for two days here at the MGM Grand Arena.
Wear’s 18-foot jumper from the left wing with 11.3 seconds remaining pushed the Bruins to a three-point lead, and ASU’s Jonathan Gilling missed an open 3 from the right corner in the final second. Gilling made five 3s in the game and nine in the tournament.
Wear’s twin brother David made two free throws to ice it.
“Yeah, we’re very fortunate,” said UCLA freshman forward Shabazz Muhammad, who had 16 points and nine rebounds, six on the offensive glass.
“In the first half I thought we played hard, but in the second half we really turned it up and it really had good karma for us. We just went down and really rebounded the ball. We outrebounded them, and then Travis had that big shot. We were just all really composed and that’s what happens when you’re composed and relaxed.”
UCLA (24-8) trailed 53-38 after ASU (22-12) went on a 12-0 run early in the second half, and were down by 12 with six minutes left. But the Bruins finished the game on 22-9 run to set up a semifinal match with the winner of the Arizona-Colorado game. They are 3-0 against those two this season, sweeping Arizona.
Arizona State, which entered the tournament knowing it had to win it to make the NCAA field, awaits an NIT berth.
“It just sucks. Nothing else really to say,” said ASU center Jordan Bachynski, who tied is career high with 22 points.
The Sun Devils had lost four in a row and six of eight before beating Stanford 89-88 in overtime in the first round of the tournament behind freshman Jahii Carson’s career-high 34 points. Carson, who scored 21 on Thursday, was asked if he planned to return to school next season, but he said he not even considered it yet.
UCLA coach Ben Howland said the Sun Devils’ effort was indicative of the toughness of the Pac-12.
“When you look at our conference, the Pac 12 and you think that’s the eighth (actually ninth) seeded team in our league, I think that says a lot about our conference,” Howland said. “I give Arizona State a ton of credit. They had us down. But these guys never quit. They never gave up. They never stopped believing in themselves and each other, and really found a way to battle back.”
In a way, it showed how much the Bruins had grown after recent losses at California and Washington State, when they trailed by 20 points early in each game.
“I’m really proud, because earlier in the season we had a couple of instances like that and we didn’t come back,” Howland said. “And this team is very resilient. Has great leadership, and just really proud of their toughness.”
Larry Drew II, the choice of Arizona coach Sean Miller as the Pac-12’s most valuable player, led UCLA with 20 points, adding four assists and four rebounds. He made two 3-pointers in the final five minutes, both times putting UCLA in front before Arizona State came back.
Muhammad had eight of his points during the Bruins’ late charge, three times scoring on second-chance points, twice off offensive rebounds. Travis Wear had 15 points and six rebounds as the Bruins built a 39-31 rebounding edge, outrebounding the Sun Devils by nine in the second half.
Bachynski’s 22 points tied a career high he set the first time ASU played UCLA this season, a 78-60 ASU victory that was the Bruins’ most decisive loss of the season.
The Sun Devils took their final lead Thursday with 1:19 left when Evan Gordon made 1 of 2 free throws to make it 75-74.
Wear’s jumper with 1:02 left put UCLA in front by one, and Gilling, who was 9 of 18 from 3-point range in the two games, missed an open three from the left baseline with 42 seconds remaining. The Bruins held the ball Wear made a long jumper from the left wing for a 78-75 lead.
ASU called a timeout, and Carson broke a press to reach the top of the key before dishing to Gilling on the right wing, whose good look drew iron.
In a scrum for the rebound, Carrick Felix fouled David Wear and then got his foot tangled with Muhammad. The teams jawed and had to be separated, and officials called offsetting technical fouls on Muhammad, Kyle Anderson, Felix and Carson.
“Yeah, he did kick me, but it’s something that, I mean, he’s a competitor, and he’s mad they lost,” Muhammad said of Felix.
“I think Shabazz thought he was being a dirty player, which is not like Carrick’s character,” Carson said. “Shabazz was a little bit excited and energized and tried to make some ruckus with Carrick, and I just tried to separate everything because Carrick is not the type of guy to get into a ruckus. I just think emotions were high.”
Carson and Gilling (14 points, six rebounds) played 82 minutes in the first two tournament games and Felix played 78, but ASU coach Herb Sendek refused to use that as a reason for UCLA’s late run.
“I think it was more UCLA doing a great job on the backboard, making some key shots,” Sendek said. “They really made some clutch baskets and really were tenacious on the offensive glass. Those two things more so than our ability to trace it to fatigue, tilted the game in their favor.”