LOS ANGELES (AP) — Jaime Jaquez Jr. helped keep UCLA afloat in the first half of Thursday night’s game against Arizona State.
In the second half, his teammates helped pick up the slack.
Jaquez scored 19 of his 26 points in the first half of the fourth-ranked Bruins’ 79-61 victory over the Sun Devils at Pauley Pavilion.
“We got down and I was upset myself. I knew that I don’t have many games left, so I’m gonna go down swinging,” Jaquez said. “My teammates were able to find me in open spots. I was trying to do everything I could just to put our team back into the game.”
Jaylen Clark scored all 15 of his points in the second half and Tyger Campbell scored nine of his 16 after halftime as the Bruins (26-4, 17-2 Pac-12) pulled away in the second half for their ninth straight win.
“When you get to March, you’ve just got to win and get some rest. You have to move on quickly, the most important thing is the next game,” coach Mick Cronin said.
UCLA has clinched the regular-season Pac-12 championship, but has aspirations for a top seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament, preferably in the West Region. It faces a huge test on Saturday when it hosts No. 8 Arizona, which dealt the Bruins a 58-52 loss in the first meeting on Jan. 21.
Cronin, though, is trying to avoid bracketology talk.
“I’m not going to get into it. I really would like to be in the West and for my team to be treated the way they deserve to be treated. That’s all I’ll say,” he said.
Jaquez scored 15 of UCLA’s first 19 points. He started 6 of 8 from the field while the rest of the team was 1 for 11.
UCLA trailed for much of the first half before they rallied. It went on an 11-4 run the last 2:25 of the first half to take a 36-32 lead at halftime.
DJ Horne had 13 points and Warren Washington added 12 for the Sun Devils (20-10, 11-8).
“We ran out of gas a little bit in the second half. They wore us down,” Arizona State coach Bobby Hurley said. “They offensive rebounded well early in the game and then we fixed it for awhile and then it resurfaced again.”
The Bruins led 38-34 less than a minute into the second half before they broke things open with a 12-3 run that included five points by Campbell and four from Clark.
UCLA, at one point, extended its lead to 20 (73-53) with four minutes remaining.
Arizona State: The Sun Devils were unable to ride the momentum of last Saturday’s win at No. 7 Arizona when Desmond Cambridge Jr. made a halfcourt shot at the buzzer. They will need some help if they hope to secure a top-four seed and first-round bye in the conference tournament.
“How many teams in the country do you think could go on the road at Arizona Saturday and win and then go on the road at UCLA and win the next game. Not many,” Hurley said. “We felt like this was a free swing really to come in here against a team that was undefeated at home and one of the best teams in the country. We played well for a half but it wasn’t enough against a team like this.”
UCLA: Cronin was worried if his team would let down its guard mentally after clinching the regular-season title last Sunday. For most of the first half it looked as if his fears were going to be realized, until his team was able to shake off a slow start.
Arizona State: Remain in Los Angeles to face Southern California on Saturday.
UCLA: Hosts No. 8 Arizona on Saturday.
AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25
Copyright © 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.