No. 5 UCLA outmuscle Arizona State

By Jack Magruder, The Sports Xchange

TEMPE, Ariz. -- UCLA loves the perimeter game, as its 285 3-pointers this season attest. But in the right situation, the Bruins can still pound, pound, pound the ball inside.

UCLA freshman forward TJ Leaf scored 25 points, freshman center Ike Anigbogu had a career-high 12 and the No. 5 Bruins dominated the paint in an 87-75 Pac-12 victory over Arizona State on Thursday at Wells Fargo Arena.


"We're a team obviously that likes to shoot the three and can shoot the three, but we really wanted to get the ball inside," UCLA coach Steve Alford said.

"That was going to be a big key to us. With our size and length, we thought we could score at the rim. When there is not a rim presence, I think you have to go there, and I thought our guys did a really good job of doing that."

UCLA (25-3, 12-3) had a 49-30 rebounding advantage and won its sixth straight game while keeping alive its slim hopes at a share of the Pac-12 title entering a game against No. 4 Arizona (26-3, 15-1).

The Bruins scored 50 points in the paint and turned 17 offensive rebounds into 31 second-chance points. Lonzo Ball and Thomas Welsh grabbed 11 rebounds piece, and Leaf had nine.


Arizona State (13-16, 6-10) has started four guards most of the Pac-12 season.

"We know they kind of play small ball, but they are very good at it," Leaf said.

"We know it (going inside) was the game plan. We just wanted to get out to execute it. Whatever the game plan is, I'm full force on it. Tonight just happened to be get it inside."

Guard Aaron Holiday had 17 points and four of UCLA's seven 3-pointers, and Bryce Alford had 15 points and the other three threes. The Bruins have made fewer than seven threes in a game only four times this season.

Guards Torian Graham scored 28 points and Kodi Justice had 19 for the Sun Devils, who had won three of five. Graham made a career-high seven 3-pointers and was two short of his career high in points.

Arizona State forward Obinna Oleka contributed 12 points and 11 rebounds, his 14th double-double of the season. He is the only Sun Devils starter taller than 6-foot-5.

Every Arizona State starter played 40 minutes except Justice, who sat out for 81 seconds in the second half. Coach Bobby Hurley did not make his first (and only) substitution until 13:06 of the second half.


"They have kids who are top 20 picks in the NBA draft," Justice said. "If we had bigs, UCLA would still have put up numbers. If we come up with a few more rebounds here and a few more stops there, we might see a different result."

Ball, a freshman point guard considered a high first-round pick if he declares for the NBA Draft, had a season-low four points and five assists. He led the NCAA at 7.6 assists per game coming in.

Ball went to the locker room early in the first half after tweaking his foot, coach Alford said. The foot was retaped, and Ball returned to play 33 minutes.

"He's fine," Alford said. "It's Lonzo Ball. He'll be there in full force on Saturday; I'm almost positive."

UCLA had 19 baskets while taking a 45-46 lead halftime lead, and 15 baskets were either layups, follow shots, dunks or otherwise within 6 feet of the basket.


-- Pac-12 leader Arizona won the first meeting with UCLA, 96-85 in Los Angeles on Jan. 21.

-- UCLA is 6-0 in February with its visit to Arizona the only remaining game this month. No Bruins team has gone undefeated in February since the 1994-95 squad went 9-0.


-- UCLA G Isaac Hamilton had a career-high 33 points and nine 3-pointers in the Bruins' 102-80 victory over Arizona State in Los Angeles on Jan. 19. He missed all three of his 3-point attempts Thursday and wound up with two points.

-- Arizona State has beaten just one 20-win team in the AP top five at home since 1979, a 69-66 double-overtime victory over No. 2 Arizona on Feb. 14, 2014.

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