Afflalo keeps eyes on Arizona State

Times Staff Writer

Arron Afflalo always cuts to the essence of any UCLA basketball discussion.

Up for discussion this week: After a 70-65 loss at West Virginia, the fifth-ranked Bruins (21-3, 10-2 Pacific 10 Conference) are 3-3 in hostile-environment, non-neutral-site road games, and now they go to Arizona State on Thursday and play resurgent Arizona on Saturday.

The last-place Sun Devils (6-18) are 0-13 in the Pac-10.

If ever there was a trap game, this is it, right, Arron?

“We’re coming off a loss,” Afflalo said, “so there’s no need to look past a team. This is a team that is losing games by single digits. We really need this game. We need a road victory in general.”


It became fashionable for the national television commentators to highlight the fact that the Bruins have only beaten Oregon State, California and USC on the road this season. The team’s notable wins over Kentucky, Georgia Tech and Texas A&M; were at neutral sites.

And now, to finish off their Pac-10 season, the Bruins must play at the Arizona schools and at Washington State and Washington in two weeks. Of all those games, it is tonight’s in Phoenix that seems the least worrisome, unless you are Afflalo.

Yes, he says, it is easy to look at the Sun Devils’ Pac-10 record and already move ahead to Saturday’s anticipated game against Arizona. But Afflalo is too deeply involved in the dangers of Tempe.

“If you look at the long haul of 0-13,” he said, “no, it doesn’t look good. But each basketball game is an individual game. If you look at each Arizona State game, that potential for them to win is always there.

“They’re so young, they don’t have the experience of winning all the time. It’s a team that’s improving. Sure, 0-13 doesn’t look good, but you keep looking at 55-51 losses and them being up by 10 on us and only losing by 10. That game could have gone either way. It’s unfortunate for them that they always keep getting the short end of the stick.”

At Pauley Pavilion last month, the Bruins were behind at halftime before plodding through a 60-50 win.

Each of Arizona State’s last four games has been decided by five points or less and the Sun Devils have been in 12 of those games this season.

UCLA Coach Ben Howland noted that Arizona State’s zone defense gave the Bruins trouble, as did West Virginia’s on Saturday and USC’s on Feb. 7.

“That zone is a very good zone they play,” Howland said. “They match up, they rebound out of it. Last month we were down 17-6 with them having the ball twice. They had a chance to beat Washington State at the buzzer. They had a chance to win both of their road games last week at the Oregon schools. They’re a team that is a problem.”

Point guard Darren Collison, who missed the West Virginia game with a strained left shoulder and who said the shoulder still bothered him Tuesday, was appalled at the idea he might sit out this game to be fully ready for Arizona.

“We could easily lose this game,” Collison said. “I don’t want that to happen. Arizona State is most dangerous because they have nothing to lose. They’ve brought everyone down to the wire.”


UCLA’s game against California on Feb. 22 at Pauley Pavilion will be at 7:30 p.m. and will be locally televised by FSN Prime Ticket. Times and television broadcast availability for the games at Washington State on March 1 and Washington on March 3 are still not determined.


Times staff writer Ben Bolch contributed to this report.


at Arizona State, 5:30 PST,

FSN Prime Ticket

Site -- Wells Fargo Arena, Tempe, Ariz.

Radio -- 1150.

Records -- UCLA 21-3, 10-2 Pacific 10 Conference, Arizona State 6-18, 0-13.

Update -- Sun Devils sophomore Jeff Pendergraph, a 6-foot-9 forward and former high school teammate of UCLA guard Darren Collison at Etiwanda High, has averaged 12.8 points and 9.8 rebounds over his last 18 games, and he leads the Pac-10 in offensive rebounds per game (4.18). UCLA forward Arron Afflalo is second to Oregon’s Aaron Brooks in the conference scoring race (Brooks is averaging 17.6 points a game, Afflalo 17.4). Afflalo is eighth in foul shooting (80.6% a game) and second in three-pointers made per game (2.46) as he continues to make his case for Pac-10 player of the year.