Four future members of the Pac-12 All-Freshman team brought their top games to Pauley Pavilion on Wednesday. UCLA, as it happened, just had a bigger posse.
Arizona State point guard Jahii Carson had 22 points and dominated in stretches, but the baby Bruins Jordan Adams, Kyle Anderson and Shabazz Muhammad combined for 64 points as UCLA outlasted the Sun Devils, 79-74, in ASU’s second straight Pac-12 road game that went to overtime.
The Sun Devils (20-9, 9-7) beat Colorado 11 days ago in a game that pushed them into the 68-team NCAA tournament field, according to several computer-generated projections. This one may hurt, as did their home loss to Washington last Saturday.
“Both offensively and defensively we had stretches where we could have and should have won the game,” ASU assistant coach Eric Musselman said in a radio interview. “You expect their three freshmen to play good basketball. They are all three phenomenal players and had good nights. Really, nobody hurt us but three players.”
One of the teams stood to benefit from No. 11 Arizona’s loss across town at USC earlier Wednesday, and it turned out to be the Bruins.
UCLA (21-7, 11-4) moved into a tie for first place with idle No. 24 Oregon, which plays its only game of the week when it hosts Oregon State on Thursday. Arizona (23-5, 11-5) fell one half-game back and is tied in the loss column with California (18-9, 10-5). The Bruins have won five of six entering a game against Arizona on Saturday night.
Arizona State handed UCLA its most decisive loss of the season when they met Jan. 26, 78-60, holding a 53-33 rebounding edge. The Bruins cut that deficit to 46-43 this time.
The Sun Devils, who have lost five of their past eight, finish the trip at USC on Saturday afternoon before closing the regular season at Arizona on March 9. They have three players in Carson, Carrick Felix and Jonathan Gilling who rank in the top seven in the league in minutes played, and they may be the first-division team that could most use one of the four first-round byes in the Pac-12 tournament.
The ironmen were at it again Wednesday. Carson went 44 minutes and had seven assists, five rebounds and three steals. It was his 13th 20-point game of the season, tied with Cal’s Allen Crabbe for the league high. Gilling had 18 points on six 3-pointers and provided a lot of punch in the first half while playing the entire 45 minutes.
Felix had 16 points and a career-high 18 rebounds in 42 minutes. Center Jordan Bachynski had 10 points, seven rebounds and four blocked shots while playing a career-high 35 minutes.
Carson, a top candidate for the Pac-12 player of the year, scored seven of the final nine points in regulation in helping the Sun Devils back from a 67-62 deficit with four minutes remaining, and his layup with 39.8 seconds remaining tied the game at 70. It went into overtime after David Wear missed an 18-footer with five seconds remaining and Carson’s 30-footer on the run hit the front rim in the final second.
Felix hit a follow shot two minutes into overtime that gave ASU a 72-70 lead, but all three UCLA freshmen answered with scores. Carson’s driving layup with 67 seconds left cut the Bruins’ lead to 75-74, but Adams made a difficult 7-foot bank shot from the right side over Bachynski and made two free throws after the Sun Devils missed two 3-pionters on their next possession.
“Jahii Carson just has such great will to win, and he’s able to create a shot for himself whenever he wants or for a teammate. When you have a creator like that, it really makes things easy at the offensive end,” Musselman said.
Carson got most of his points off ASU’s pet pick-and-roll play, in which Bachynski sets up at the top of the key and Carson runs his defender into the screen. Whatever the defense does after that, it is almost always too late to catch up. Carson set up long 3’s by Gilling, who was 6 of 14 from long range, and Felix and also found Bachynski and Ruslan Pateev underneath for easy baskets.
Adams, a 6-foot-5 swingman, led the Bruins with 22 points, while Anderson and Muhammad had 21 apiece. They were a combined 21-of-42 from the field with 28 rebounds and six blocked shots. Anderson, a 6-9 forward who handles the ball like a point guard, had a career-high 15 rebounds and four blocked shots.
“Kyle Anderson just creates matchups, because he is a point guard one minute, then he’s a 4-man,” Musselman said. “Then he’s a point forward. They moved him to center in the first half. That’s a tough matchup because he is so multidimensional.”
Gilling made four 3-pointers, two from the top of the key and two from the left wing, in the first 5½ minutes to help ASU open a 25-17 lead, its largest of the game. UCLA abandoned its man-to-man defense for a time later in the half as the Bruins took a 39-37 lead on Adams’ 3-pointer late in the half. Carson hit two floaters in the final minute for a 41-39 lead at halftime. UCLA led by six before Carson’s late charge in the second half.
“For Jahii to get in the paint like he did and finish like he did really is amazing,” Musselman said. “The handle, the vision to find seams … he is almost like a running back who has a split-second to find a hole and he seems to figure out where the seam in the defense is.”