UCLA steals win from Arizona State to move into tie with USC atop Pac-12
The freshman had never faced pressure like this.
Jaylen Clark sighed, dribbled three times and let the free throw go. It bounced off the front of the rim.
The score remained tied with 1.4 seconds left, UCLA needing Clark to make his second attempt to nudge it ahead in a game it looked destined to lose for 39 minutes.
Clark took the pass from the referee and repeated his routine. Three more dribbles. Release. It was good.
Just like that, the Bruins had the lead for the first time and had completed an improbable 80-79 comeback victory over Arizona State on Saturday night at Pauley Pavilion after Clark put both hands up to contest Alonzo Verge Jr.’s halfcourt shot that was off the mark at the buzzer.
With the NCAA men’s basketball tournament nearing, UCLA already is in survive-and-advance mode. Every game is like a tournament game, Bruins say.
Clark’s teammates mobbed him in celebration of a victory that moved the Bruins (16-5 overall, 12-3 Pac-12) into a first-place tie with USC in the conference. The Trojans hold the tiebreaker, having beaten the Bruins earlier this month, but the teams will meet again March 6 at Pauley.
Clark finished with just two points, both on free throws after going two of four from the foul line, but those points and his late rebound amid a scrum of bodies made all the difference.
“After he missed the first one,” UCLA point guard Tyger Campbell said, “we knew the second one was in.”
Campbell also had his hands all over this victory. He stuck them out to deny Arizona State counterpart Remy Martin when the Sun Devils guard drove toward the basket, Campbell stripping the ball and drawing a frustration foul from Martin with 39 seconds left.
Campbell made both free throws to tie it at 79-79. Sun Devils guard Holland Woods missed a three-pointer with 15 seconds left, UCLA’s Jaime Jaquez Jr. grabbed the rebound and Campbell missed a running floater in the lane.
The ball bounced off the rim and into Clark’s hands, where he went back up strong and was fouled.
“The rebound was the key,” UCLA coach Mick Cronin said. “You know, he doesn’t stand around and watch. Jaylen’s pursuit of the ball right now is probably the best thing he does right now on offense.”
There was more jubilation afterward when Bruins athletic director Martin Jarmond presented Cronin with the game ball in celebration of his 400th coaching victory. His team made it possible with a flurry of stops in the final minutes, a surreal scene that unfolded with fake fans chanting “De-fense!” over the arena’s sound system.
The Bruins were listening, finally foiling Martin on a night he finished with 25 points on eight-for-21 shooting. The Sun Devils (7-11, 4-8) appeared on the way to an upset when Kimani Lawrence dunked in transition and was fouled, making the free throw to complete a three-point play and give his team a 77-70 lead.
The final 3:45 belonged almost exclusively to the Bruins.
UCLA forward Cody Riley finished with 17 points in 19 foul-plagued minutes, making all six of his shots, while backup forward Mac Etienne played valiantly in Riley’s absence, scoring all nine of his points in the second half.
Before the final crazy sequence, UCLA faced the prospect of not only a rare home loss but a bad one.
The Bruins were off practically from the opening tip, spotting Arizona State a double-digit lead before scoring their first basket.
UCLA junior gymnast Margzetta Frazier turned in a career-best performance in Friday’s loss at Utah after receiving a call from pop star Janet Jackson.
Martin was a game-long nuisance until he missed his final two shots, including a three-pointer that bounced twice off the rim with 1:23 left.
Cronin had wanted Clark to make the first free throw and miss the second so that Arizona State couldn’t take the ball out of bounds.
It all worked out.
“He’s a really good free-throw shooter,” Cronin said of Clark, who entered the game having made seven of eight this season. “I know he’s a freshman and all, but today’s kid, he’s played in big games.”
Nothing like this.
Go beyond the scoreboard
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