LOS ANGELES (AP) — A disappointing loss two nights earlier could have weighed on UCLA’s players. The potential for a season-long, three-game losing streak certainly might have, too.
Instead of wilting under the pressure of their recent struggles, the Bruins put together one of their strongest games at just the right time.
Jonah Bolden scored 16 points, Bryce Alford dished out 11 assists and UCLA ran away from Arizona State in the second half for a 78-65 victory Sunday night.
“You don’t want to think of the consequences of losing because you don’t plan on losing,” said Alford, who had 10 points. “We believe we can beat anybody and we’ve just got to show up and play like we can, and tonight we did that.”
UCLA (14-11, 5-7 Pac-12) suffered a difficult loss to Arizona Friday night, struggling down the stretch for its fifth loss in seven games.
The Bruins bounced back with a solid game at both ends, shooting 49 percent overall and shutting Arizona State down in the second half.
Isaac Hamilton and Prince Ali had 12 points each for the Bruins in a much-needed win.
“This was a great road trip for us,” UCLA coach Steve Alford said. “We played really well, really well for 70-80 minutes, even in Tucson.”
Arizona State (14-12, 4-9) seemed to gain some momentum with a victory over No. 23 Southern California Friday night and kept up with the Bruins in the first half behind its 3-point shooting.
The Sun Devils faded in the second half and had trouble scoring at the rim all night, hitting 10 of 30 shots inside the arc while making 12 of 27 outside it.
Andre Spight scored 21 points and Obinna Oleka had 14 points and 13 rebounds for Arizona State.
“I felt like we were on the verge of something after Friday night and, like has happened most of the year, there’s progress and there’s regression,” Arizona State coach Bobby Hurley said. “We regressed again tonight.”
The Bruins wore down after controlling the first half against No. 17 Arizona on Friday, losing 81-75 after Thomas Welsh and Tony Parker fouled out in a 42-second span with about 6 minutes left.
The Sun Devils pulled off their biggest Pac-12 victory with their best defensive performance that same night, holding the Trojans 23 points below their conference scoring average in a 74-67 victory.
The Bruins, which won the initial meeting with Arizona State 81-74 at home, had another solid first half, making 16 of 33 shots while spreading the ball around. Alford had nine points and six assists at halftime, helping UCLA lead 37-35.
Arizona State kept up with 3-pointers, making 7 of 13 from behind the arc, including three by Kodi Justice.
“We knew taking away the three was really important and it kind of got away from us in the first half so it was a close game,” Bryce Alford said. “Second half, I thought we did a better job contesting.”
They sure did.
The Sun Devils’ good shooting didn’t continue to start the second half, missing eight of their first 10 shots as UCLA pounded the ball inside to Parker (six points) while building an eight-point lead.
The Bruins kept hitting shots and Alford kept dishing, leading to an 11-1 run that put UCLA up 69-54 with about 5 minutes left.
Arizona State continued to struggle around the rim and relied even more to the 3, making four shots inside the arc in the second half. The Sun Devils shot 9 of 29 overall in the half.
“We were missing wide-open shots, layups and the next thing you know we’re down 13 points and trying to battle back,” said Justice, who finished with 12 points. “They’re a good team. It’s hard to battle back against a team like that.”
UCLA: The Bruins fouled Spight on 3-point attempts three times in the second half. He made 6 of the 9 free throws. … Hamilton scored in double figures for the 21st straight game.
Arizona State: C Eric Jacobsen played his 124th career game, matching Eddie House for seventh on the school’s all-time list. … Savon Goodman had to ice his jaw after taking an inadvertent elbow from Parker in the first half, but returned to the game. He had three points on 1-of-5 shooting.
UCLA hosts Utah on Thursday.
Arizona State plays at No. 17 Arizona on Wednesday.
(© Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)