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Bruins can't go big, so they go home losers against Arizona State

Two days after a huge victory at No. 6 Arizona, short-handed UCLA can't match up inside with taller, bulkier Sun Devils, whose big men dominate in 78-60 win.

January 26, 2013|By Chris Foster, Los Angeles Times
  • Arizona State center Ruslan Pateev blocks a shot by UCLA guard Jordan Adams in the first half Saturday afternoon in Tempe, Ariz.
Arizona State center Ruslan Pateev blocks a shot by UCLA guard Jordan Adams… (Ross Franklin / Associated…)

TEMPE, Ariz. — Jordan Bachynski, Arizona State's big-lug-of-a-Canadian, was as good a place as any to start.

There was so much Arizona State did right, and so much UCLA did wrong, at the Wells Fargo Arena on Saturday. But where you could hang the Sun Devils' 78-60 victory was from Bachynski's 7-foot-2 frame.

It could be argued, at least Saturday, that Bachynski was as even better Canadian import to the Phoenix area than NHL hockey.

"I never heard of the guy," UCLA's Shabazz Muhammad said. "He was huge."

Literally and figuratively.

The Sun Devils found UCLA's weakness — not that it required a Where's Waldo-like search — and exploited it.

The Bruins found that living in the past, even if it was only Thursday, was a bad way to travel around the Pac-12 Conference.

Bachynski was the difference maker. He had 22 points, 15 rebounds and six blocked shots. It underscored again the Bruins' woes against teams with a strong inside presence.

"I told our guys last night, that kid is going to make a lot of money playing basketball," UCLA Coach Ben Howland said. "He blocked two or three shots and we kept testing him and he kept blocking them. We got to learn."

The Bruins (16-5 overall, 6-2 in Pac-12 play) were tutored in so many subjects.

The intensity that fueled UCLA's victory over sixth-ranked Arizona on Thursday apparently stayed in Tucson.

The Bruins trailed only 39-33 at halftime, but it seemed like they might collapse at any moment. The Sun Devils (16-4, 5-2) stretched that lead to 14 four minutes into the second half.

The Sun Devils schooled UCLA right to the end. As the seconds wound down, Arizona State's Evan Gordon was casually dribbling out the clock. Jordan Adams knocked took the ball away and raced up court.

"I was taught to play right up to the end," Adams said.

Arizona State's Carrick Felix did, hustling back to block Adams' layup at the buzzer.

It was the exclamation point.

"There was no motivation," Muhammad said. "We got such great win [Thursday]. Everyone was so satisfied. Everyone was happy. We didn't look forward to this game as much. We've got to learn, as players, even when you get big wins, you've got to win the ones you really need."

Excuses were not applicable.

True, the Bruins were without forward Travis Wear, their third-leading scorer. It shortened an already thin bench, leaving UCLA with only seven scholarship players. But it would be hard to say fatigue was an issue.

Arizona State went overtime to beat USC on Thursday, a game that ended after 11 p.m. And four Sun Devils played at least 38 minutes against the Bruins. All looked fresh at the end.

Answers lay elsewhere.

"The second half got away from us," Howland said. "We were going too much one-on-one."

UCLA was manhandled by Oregon's inside players in a loss to the Ducks a week earlier. The Bruins revisited those issues.

Bachynski had eight offensive rebounds. UCLA had eight as a team. Bachynski had career highs in points and rebounds, and his wing span made the paint a no-fly zone.

"Even when he didn't get the block, he was changing our shots," said Adams, who led UCLA with 19 points.

Arizona State had a 53-33 rebounding edge, with three players with double digits — Bachynski, Jonathan Gilling (12) and Felix (11).

The Sun Devils worked the Bruins' undersized interior like an exposed nerve. Felix, who had 23 points, made eight of 12 shots, mostly by posting up Muhammad. Bachynski made 10 of 12 shots.

"They were scoring every time," said Muhammad, who had 18 points. "We couldn't get our break going because we couldn't play any defense. That big guy did whatever he wanted inside. We feed off misses and they weren't missing."

Howland summed it up more succinctly, saying, "We didn't do a very good job on either end of the floor."

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