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UCLA hangs on to beat Arizona State in overtime, 73-72

Bruins squander a 15-point lead in the second half. Lazeric Jones scores 18 points and Reeves Nelson has 15 points and 12 rebounds.

January 29, 2011|By Ben Bolch

Reporting from Tempe, Ariz. — Two halves still don't make a whole lot of sense for UCLA.

At the midpoint of Pacific 10 Conference play, the Bruins continue to play superbly for 20 minutes only to unravel after halftime.

They lost all of a 17-point lead against Oregon State and a 15-point lead against California before hitting a new second-half low Saturday at Wells Fargo Arena.

UCLA squandered a 15-point lead against Arizona State, which had lost seven of its first eight conference games, before pulling out a 73-72 victory in overtime thanks to a barrage of three-point baskets.

Lazeric Jones, Malcolm Lee and Jerime Anderson each made a three-pointer on UCLA's first three possessions in overtime to build a seven-point lead. The Bruins (14-7, 6-3 Pac-10) held on to match their victory total from last season with at least 11 games remaining.

It was a big bounce-back effort for Jones, who finished with 18 points on seven-for-nine shooting after being scoreless and missing his seven shots against Arizona on Thursday. UCLA sophomore forward Reeves Nelson chipped in with 15 points and 12 rebounds.

Still, Coach Ben Howland might have earned an honorary degree in public relations after the game, calling it "a great win" even though the Bruins allowed the Sun Devils (9-12, 1-8) to shoot 57.1% in the second half after holding them to 20% in the first.

Asked whether that assessment was a bit excessive, Howland said, "Absolutely, it's a great win. Absolutely, 100%. … Every win you get in the Pac-10 is a great win, trust me."

Forward Tyler Honeycutt, who had 12 points and 10 rebounds despite experiencing flu-like symptoms, said that part of the Bruins' inability to put away opponents stems from "just underestimating them."

"Coming out," Honeycutt said, "you know we do good in the first half, we take it for granted and we don't come out in the second half and play as hard. It's another game we've got to learn from and just get better."

Should UCLA still be having these types of learning experiences this deep into the season?

"Yeah," Honeycutt said, "you're going to learn new stuff every game as the season goes on."

The Bruins discovered that when they don't block out on free throws, bad things happen. They twice failed to keep Trent Lockett from rebounding missed free throws in the final two minutes of regulation, leading to a three-pointer by Ty Abbott and a tip-in by Lockett that tied the score, 61-61, with 20 seconds left.

UCLA had two chances to win before overtime, but Jones missed a three-point shot and Honeycutt missed a short running jumper at the buzzer.

Howland used a small, three-guard lineup for much of the game, with Anderson making his first start this season. The Sun Devils seemed flustered in the early going, particularly once Abbott, their leading scorer, picked up his third foul and went to the bench midway through the first half.

Arizona State also had trouble defending center Joshua Smith, who threw down a ferocious one-handed dunk midway through the second half to give the Bruins a 10-point lead. But Howland removed Smith after the big man did not get back on defense, leading to a three-pointer by Jamelle McMillan.

"He thought he got fouled on that one play and he's not hustling back," Howland said. "They hit a three because we're playing five on four, and that just can't happen."

Smith did not play the last 6 minutes 18 seconds of regulation or in overtime.

The Bruins said the victory mattered more than the second-half collapse. Just like in their shaky victories over Oregon State and California, disaster was averted.

"That's all that matters, the win," Nelson said.

Said Howland: "When you come out of a game like this with a win, everything is good."

ben.bolch@latimes.com

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