With a Pac-12 Conference regular-season title already in hand, No. 4 UCLA can complete a perfect home slate with a sweep in Los Angeles this week, beginning Thursday against visiting Arizona State.
Both the Bruins (25-4, 16-2) and Sun Devils (20-9, 11-7) come into their penultimate regular-season game fresh off comeback road wins last weekend.
UCLA rallied from an early deficit Sunday at Colorado, holding the Buffs without a field goal for the game’s final 4:11 of a 60-56 win. Tyger Campbell made UCLA’s only successful 3-point attempt — the Bruins finished 1-for-14 from deep — en route to 14 points.
Jaime Jaquez Jr. scored 17 points, right on his season average, to help secure UCLA’s first regular-season league title since 2012-13.
“It’s very important,” Jaquez said of winning the championship. “It goes to the four years of hard work. Just guys who really just stuck around and really bought into the idea of coming back and playing for something bigger than us.
“That was one of the goals we had at the beginning of the year and we accomplished it,” he added in Sunday’s postgame press conference. “Now we have two more goals that we want to accomplish as well and we are just going to keep working hard.”
Those other two goals are a Pac-12 tournament title, which UCLA last won in 2014, and the NCAA championship. Though the Bruins boast the most national titles in the sport with 11, their last came in 1995.
UCLA’s shot at locking up the Pac-12 championship before the final weekend was a byproduct of Arizona State’s dramatic, 89-88 win at rival Arizona on Saturday.
The Sun Devils overcame a 10-point deficit late in the second half to win on Desmond Cambridge Jr.’s heave from beyond midcourt as time expired. The victory bolsters Arizona State’s NCAA Tournament at-large resume with the Sun Devils now ranked No. 61 in the NCAA’s NET rankings.
“I hope people are watching to see the level of the game. That’s what the postseason is about,” Arizona State coach Bobby Hurley said. “They want teams that could perform like that on a national stage. And I think you saw two teams that … should be in the postseason.”
Beating Arizona gives Arizona State a signature win that eluded it when the Sun Devils gave up a second-half lead Jan. 19 against UCLA.
The first half of that game ended in much the same fashion as the Sun Devils’ second half at Arizona, with Cambridge sinking a buzzer-beating 3-pointer.
However, the Bruins inundated Arizona State in the second half, winning the latter 20 minutes 44-27 en route to a 74-62 victory.
“The road doesn’t get any easier the rest of the way,” Hurley said on Saturday. “But I’ve said this in the press before, if you’re going to be playing in postseason you got to beat teams like this so they’re going to be in your way so that’s how we approach it.”
Cambridge scored a team-high 15 points the last time Arizona and UCLA met; Campbell’s 22 points and David Singleton’s 21 paced the Bruins in the win.
–Field Level Media