by Mike Stewart
The last time UCLA Bruins met Arizona State, the Arizona State Sun Devils played without three of their top players, suspended for violating team rules, and the Bruins defeated Arizona State 75-58 in Anaheim, Calif.
Two of the banished players have since returned but the losses keep mounting for the Sun Devils. They have dropped five of their last six and scored an embarrassing eight points in the first half of their last outing, a 33-point setback at Washington State.
The Bruins, who are sixth in the conference, need a strong finish to earn a top-four seed in the Pac-12 Conference and a first-round bye.
UCLA Bruins (15-12): The Bruins stepped out of conference last time out and suffered a 66-63 loss at St. John’s. UCLA turned the ball over 16 times, including eight by Tyler Lamb. The loss on national television at Madison Square Garden seemed to be the last straw in UCLA’s dim hopes of at-large bid for the NCAA Tournament. They will have to win the conference tournament to earn a return trip to the tourney and most likely will need to win their final four games of the regular season to earn an important first-round bye. The Bruins are 3-6 on the road. Reserve center Anthony Stover is questionable with a foot injury.
Arizona State Sun Devils (8-19): The Sun Devils lead the conference in turnovers at 16.6 per game, an anomaly for a Herb Sendek-coached team. The carelessness is due mostly to Arizona State’s youth, which doesn’t have a senior on the team and has been led by freshman Jonathan Gilling. The offense has failed to top 60 points in five of their last six games. The Sun Devils are 5-9 at home.
1. Thursday’s game is part of a ‘Black Out’ promotion where the fans are being given black t-shirts to wear in the stands.
2. Seven-footer Jordan Bachynski had been playing well for the Sun Devils, but managed just one shot against Washington State.
3. UCLA is second in the conference in assist-turnover ratio, while Arizona State is last.
NCAA BASKETBALL PREDICTION: Bruins 68, Sun Devils 56.
anthony stover - arizona state sun devils - jonathan gilling - jordan bachynski - ncaa tournament - tyler lamb - ucla bruins - wells fargo arena