No. 5 UCLA faces stern test at Arizona St.
Dueling win streaks are at stake Thursday in Tempe, Ariz., when Arizona State welcomes fifth-ranked UCLA for a Pac-12 Conference showdown against the league leader.
The Sun Devils (15-3, 6-1 Pac-12) can move into a tie atop the conference and extend their winning streak to five games, returning home after a successful visit to Oregon and Oregon State.
Arizona State blasted Oregon last Thursday with their highest-scoring output in almost a month, 90-73. The Sun Devils followed up with a come-from-behind, 74-69 win at Oregon State on Saturday.
After surrendering 42 first-half points, Arizona State buckled down to hold the Beavers to 27 points after intermission on 29.6 percent shooting. The Sun Devils blocked nine Oregon State shot attempts in the victory, bumping their per-game block average to 5.3 on the season.
“That’s what we do,” Arizona State head coach Bobby Hurley said postgame. “We do block and we got the length and the athleticism around the basket to do that.”
Freshman Duke Brennan came off the bench against Oregon State to block three shots in just 10 minutes. He adds to a defense that ranks 19th nationally in percentage of defensive possessions with blocks at 14.5, per KenPom.com metrics.
That rim protection contributes to Arizona State holding opponents to just 41.9 percent shooting on 2-point field-goal attempts, sixth-best in the country.
UCLA (16-2, 7-0), meanwhile, comes in as one of college basketball’s hottest teams thanks in part to its offensive execution inside the 3-point arc. The Bruins score 61.7 percent of their points on 2-point field-goal attempts, per KenPom.com, with key contributors Jaime Jaquez Jr., Jaylen Clark, Adem Bona and David Singleton all shooting 52.1 percent or better inside the arc.
Singleton’s scoring efficiency extends to 3-point range, as well, as he sports a 44 percent average from deep with a team-leading 37 made attempts from beyond the arc.
UCLA has combined its offensive acumen with tenacious defense, forcing turnovers on almost one-quarter of all opponent possessions, to run off 13 straight wins.
“Sometimes your shot doesn’t always go in,” Jaquez said of UCLA’s defense being key to its run following Saturday’s 68-54 defeat of Colorado. “You shoot 50 percent, you shoot a good shooting percentage, but you still miss half your shots. We just attribute it all to defense. Like we said earlier in the year, if you play defense, you give yourself a chance. We are giving ourselves a lot of chances.”
The Bruins will test their defense against a balanced Arizona State offense, featuring four scorers averaging from 10.9 to 12.8 points per game. Desmond Cambridge Jr. leads the way at 12.1 points a contest and has connected on 35 of 101 3-point attempts.
DJ Horne has made 34 3-pointers and averages 12.1 points per game, while both Devan Cambridge and Frankie Collins are scoring 10.9 points a contest. Collins has also been Arizona State’s most effective player in getting to the foul line, attempting 79 free throws — 24 more than the next Sun Devil at the charity stripe.
–Field Level Media