The recent trip that UCLA’s basketball squad took to the desert was the epitome of up-and-down as the Bruins, following their biggest win of the season over 6th ranked Arizona, proceeded to suffer their biggest loss 48 hours later against the Wildcats’ rival, Arizona State.
Being shorthanded due to the loss of forward Travis Wear because of a concussion suffered against Arizona on Thursday was bad enough as the Bruins had only seven scholarship players available against ASU in Tempe, but it wouldn’t have made much of a difference as the Sun Devils’ 7′ 2″, 248-pound hulk of a center, Jordan Bachynski, took advantage of UCLA’s lack of bulk in a humongous way as the Canadian scored 22 points, grabbed 15 rebounds (eight of them offensive) and – more tellingly – blocked six shots in Arizona State’s 78-60 win over Ben Howland’s team on Saturday.
Those 22 points didn’t even lead the Sun Devils as Carrick Felix was not only the game’s top scorer with 23, adding 11 rebounds to boot, he also added insult to injury when he blocked Jordan Adams’ layup as the game ended. Two other Sun Devils scored in double figures while three of them had at least 11 boards, outrebounding the Bruins 53-33.
Yep, one could say that UCLA suffered a complete beat down, their weaknesses inside and in the paint being completely exposed once again.
“…(Bachynski) is going to make a lot of money playing basketball,” Howland said, joining several Bruins in singing the center’s praises. “He blocked two or three shots and we kept testing him and he kept blocking them. We’ve got to learn.”
“That big guy did whatever he wanted inside,” added Shabazz Muhammad, who scored 18 points, second to Adams’ 19. Larry Drew II was the other Bruins in double figures as he had 12.
UCLA stayed in the hunt during the game’s first 20 minutes, being down by only six at the break, but Arizona State (16-4, 5-2 in the Pac-12) finished them off in the second half in front of what I’m sure was an ecstatic, gold-shirted Sun Devil crowd.
Now sitting in second place in the conference with a 6-2 record – 16-5 overall – I personally expected the Bruins to split their two games in the desert, but I was sure that the results would be the opposite, with UCLA winning in Tempe and losing in Tucson.
Now they journey home to Westwood to play the first of their two annual games against the crosstown rival, USC, a team who is better than their 8-13 record suggests, has three seven-footers on their roster, and will play like they have nothing to lose against the Bruins, which will make those Trojans, whose 3-5 record places them in eighth place in the Pac-12, very dangerous.
As part of the coverage of basketball’s version of the Crosstown Rivalry, an article featuring who I think would play in the ultimate UCLA vs. USC basketball game will appear on this site on Tuesday, with a recap of Wednesday night’s Bruin-Trojan showdown at Pauley Pavilion being posted on Thursday morning.
USC Trojans, Pauley Pavilion – Wednesday, January 30, 7:00 p.m.
TV: Pac-12 Networks