Turnovers, Carson’s off night doom ASU in loss to UCLA

ASU point guard Jahii Carson has his shot blocked by UCLA's Kyle Anderson during Sunday night's loss.

It had been 26 seasons since Arizona State’s men’s basketball team swung through Southern California and went back to Tempe with a pair of wins. After a hot start Sunday night that led to a 12-6 lead over UCLA, it looked like ASU could reset that mark to zero.

Then, following a timeout, the Sun Devils’ wheels fell off.

A sloppy first half that featured eight turnovers and a season high in points allowed doomed ASU to a 87-72 loss at Pauley Pavilion, sending the Sun Devils back to Arizona with a split on their first Pac-12 road trip of the season.

"Where we came unglued was just our turnovers," ASU coach Herb Sendek said on KTAR 620 after the game. "We had a flurry of turnovers that were inexcusable and inexplicable and put us back on our heels tremendously."

ASU finished the night with 14 turnovers, off of which UCLA scored 17 points.

Five times now since the 1986-87 season — ASU’s last sweep of the Los Angeles schools — have the Sun Devils won the first game of a road trip to Southern California only to lose the second. Sunday’s loss gave ASU its 12th split in 27 seasons against the L.A. schools.

As quickly as ASU (13-4, 2-2 Pac-12) jumped out to an early lead about four and a half minutes in, UCLA (13-3, 2-1) needed less time to take an even bigger lead. Following a media timeout, the Bruins went on a 14-0 run over the next three and a half minutes to take a 20-12 lead. During that stretch, ASU committed a turnover on four straight possessions, resulting in nine UCLA points.

Let’s face it: When our best player has the kind of night that he had tonight, it’s going to be hard for us to beat an outstanding team like this on the road.

ASU coach Herb Sendek

By the 7:13 mark in the first half, UCLA had extend the run to 29-6 and the lead to 35-18.  UCLA’s 50 first-half points were the most ASU has allowed in the first 20 minutes this season.

UCLA’s largest lead came seven minutes into the second half, when the Bruins went up by 21.

The Sun Devils might have kept the game closer, especially in the first half, if not for a rare off night from star point guard Jahii Carson. Not looking much like his usual self, Carson finished with just nine points on 4-of-17 shooting, failing to score in double digits for just the second time this season.

"Let’s face it: When our best player has the kind of night that he had tonight, it’s going to be hard for us to beat an outstanding team like this on the road," Sendek said. "This obviously wasn’t his night in any way. We had to try to overcome that."

With Carson struggling, ASU guard Jermaine Marshall assumed a leading role, scoring a game-high 25 points.

"He was a real bright spot for us," Sendek said.

Ultimately, ASU had dug itself a hole too big out of which to climb. In the loss, the Sun Devils missed out on a chance to pad their resume for the NCAA tournament with an impressive road sweep, though Sendek deflected any talk of disappointment at not closing out the weekend the way it started.

"We always want to win our next game, whether we lose or win the previous game," Sendek said. "We don’t try to handicap the season based on what happened in the last contest.

That mentality will be particularly fitting this week as ASU prepares to take on in-state rival and No. 1-ranked Arizona in Tucson on Thursday night. The undefeated Wildcats survived a scare against UCLA on Thursday before routing USC on Sunday.

"Obviously, Arizona is the No. 1 team in the country right now," Sendek said. "We’ve got to get home, get back in the gym and get ready."

Officials called a particularly tight game Sunday. UCLA forward Tony Parker fouled out at the 8:58 mark in the second half, and both teams had to manage players in foul trouble. ASU finished with four players one foul away from fouling out and UCLA finished with two.

8 — ASU turnovers in the first half. UCLA scored 13 points off those turnovers, which included four straight amid an 11-0 run in the first half. The Sun Devils finished with 14 turnovers, off of which the Bruins scored 17 points.

— With four fouls, star ASU point guard Jahii Carson sat for a stretch of longer than seven minutes in the second half. The Sun Devils mounted a rally without Carson but may have been able to cut further into the Bruins’ lead if he’d have been on the floor. ASU came within nine points with six and a half minutes remaining.

— Carson had one of his least productive games of the season. His nine points on 4-of-17 shooting were his fewest since an eight-point performance in ASU’s loss to Miami on Dec. 1.

— ASU center Jordan Bachynski recorded two blocks Sunday night to move into second place on the Pac-12’s career blocks lost, tying and passing former Arizona center Channing Frye. Bachynski is 19 blocks behind Anthony Cook for the all-time lead.

— UCLA won the rebounding battle 42-29 Sunday, and it mattered especially on the offensive end. UCLA scored 11 second-chance points on 11 offensive rebounds while ASU had none.

As tough as a road trip to Southern California can be, ASU faces its toughest road trip of the season this week as it travels to Tucson on Thursday to take on in-state rival Arizona, currently college basketball’s No. 1 team.