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January 26, 2013
As aggressively as anything else he'd done all afternoon, Carrick Felix chased down UCLA's Jordan Adams and blocked his layup attempt in the game's final second even though it was meaningless to its outcome. It wasn't to him.
Adams had stolen the ball from guard Evan Gordon as he was casually dribbling out the game clock of an already decided 78-60 Arizona State victory in an attempt to get a cheap basket before the final horn sounded.
Felix decided the play was relevant. So too are his Sun Devils.
ASU improved to 16-4 overall and 5-2 in the Pac-12 with the team's first signature win of the season, which came in front of 9,337 fans at Wells Fargo Arena. UCLA dropped to 16-5 (6-2). It was a game that substantially improved the Sun Devils' NCAA Tournament at-large resume.
"I saw him going down there trying to get a dunk so I just hustled like I always do, that's it," said Felix, who valiantly guarded UCLA star freshman Shabazz Muhammad and had an efficient 23 on just 12 shots to go with 11 rebounds.
"He's just doing it night in and night out consistently at both ends of the floor," said ASU coach Herb Sendek. "Not only was he 8 for 12 from the field, but he's eveywhere on defense. The heart that he's playing with is just fun to watch and you just can't help but feel good for him because none of this has come easy, none of this has come instantaneous. That's what we all love, that's the best of the best."
As impressive as Felix was, he probably wasn't even the star of the game for the Sun Devils. That honor almost certainly went to junior center Jordan Bachynski, who had 22 points on 10 of 12 shooting, 15 rebounds and six blocks. It was in stark contrast to Bachynski's play of late, including on Thursday against USC, when he saw less action than backup Ruslan Pateev.
"I thought the key for Jordan today was he was really aggressive," Sendek said. "He played with a level of aggressiveness, not just in terms of his rebounding and shot blocks, but even if you think back to the first half, the one move where he started at the left block and came middle, he just went with authority. And then when he had a chance to finish around the basket he went strong and went to dunk the ball. He just had a good, aggressive coat of armor on all day and I think that allowed him to play at a particularly good level for us."
After getting separation from the Bruins with 7-2 run to start the second half that led to its first double-digit lead of the game, ASU led by no fewer than nine points the rest of the way. The anticipated UCLA second half run never came.
Muhammad had a breakaway dunk at 9:46 - his first points of the second half -- to make it an 11 point UCLA deficit but ASU freshman Jahii Carson answered with a tough floater of his own in the paint to stunt the Bruins' momentum.
The run that never came also may have been averted with a little more than five minutes left when UCLA's Larry Drew hit a 3-pointer to bring its deficit to 10 points only to see Bachynski score an And-1 dunk at the other end on a fast break off a converted basket.
Several minutes later, Carson hit four consecutive free throws to keep the Bruins at bay again after two made shots from the field by Drew and two converted foul shots by Adams.
The 18 point ASU lead at the game's conclusion was the largest by either team on the day.
"I think our guys more than anything played together and I think they're getting a better standing of each other and what we're trying to accomplish," Sendek said. "And then I think we owe a lot to Jahii. Even though he didn't shoot the ball particularly well today the ball's in his hands so much and he has a great ability to make his teammates better and he just kind of controls things for us."
Muhammad, who entered the game averaging 18.2 points, scored 18 in the game but had just two assists and two rebounds and didn't hit a 3-pointer in the contest.
"I was just trying to play him straight up and contain him," Felix said of his defensive assignment on Muhammad. "Definitely he's a really good player and scorer and I just wanted to go out there and play some hard defense and do it for my team. Jahii was helping me out a lot when Shabazz would go to the basket and curl, just having Jahii there for a litle stunt, a little help, it was good for us. We definitely won this game by our defense today."
UCLA was led by Adams, who had 19 points. Drew had 12 points but just four assists, half of his league leading average.
"It's huge for us," Bachynski said of the win. "The sweep of the [Los Angeles] schools is huge. It helps our momentum, it helps our confidence and I mean it feels good. It feels so much better to win and to sweep the two schools. UCLA is a great team."
UCLA shot just 34.7 percent from the field and had only eight offensive rebounds as its second chance and fast break opportunities were limited and the Sun Devils dominated in points in the paint.
"We knew we had them in size," Felix said of the Bruins, who were without 6-foot-9 Travis Wear and limited to seven active scholarship players. "(Bachynski), man he was being a beast today. He hadn't played well in the past two games but definitely was a presence tonight and definitely we need that from him so it was good that he showed up tonight."