Bruins almost zoned out

first_imgTEMPE, Ariz. – The failure to attack a zone with zest surfaced again and a big-time deficit existed again, but so did UCLA’s most enduring quality – poise. On the verge of losing to what may become the worst team in Pac-10 Conference history, the Bruins finally found their defensive prowess and offensive aggression Thursday night. It took an 18-2 run late in the second half and perfect free-throw shooting in the final minute before the fifth-ranked Bruins survived to reclaim sole possession of first place with a 67-61 defeat of hapless Arizona State in front of 8,071 at Wells Fargo Arena. Arron Afflalo led UCLA (22-3, 11-2 Pac 10) with 24 points and Darren Collison returned from a one-game absence with a left shoulder injury to score 18. The rest of the Bruins, however, combined for just 25 points, and power forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, who played with blurred vision after being elbow in the right eye in the first half, was scoreless for the first time in his career. Indeed, moving a half game ahead of Washington State (22-4, 11-3) in the league standings proved to be much more trying for a UCLA squad that continues to show offensive flaws against zone defenses. “We’re not hitting the high post sometimes when we’re open,” UCLA coach Ben Howland said. “We’re hesitant and tentative, at times, to do that. We can’t be like that. “We have to be not afraid to make mistakes against the zone. It’s like we’re playing on our heels a little bit, and you can’t play like that. You have to play aggressive at both ends.” The Bruins won, but that it took such a rally to beat Arizona State is reason for concern. The Sun Devils (6-19, 0-14) have now lost 15 games in a row and are on pace to become the first team to finish Pac-10 play without a win. center_img The Sun Devils already matched the worst start by a team since the conference expanded to 10 teams in 1978-79, and they can be the first to fall to 0-15 with a loss Sunday to USC. The fact UCLA trailed 49-39 after Antwi Atuahene’s lay-in with 10:58 to play was alarming. “We weren’t particularly playing great defense and we have to do a little bit better job of how we attack the zone,” Afflalo said. “(Defense) is supposed to be our M.O. We have to get rid of those lapses. I can’t pinpoint it for you, but it’s getting pretty late in the season, and (it is) an important part of the season where we’re playing for something. We need to focus.” [email protected] (818) 713-3607 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more