LAS VEGAS, Nev. -- Playing catch-up all game, No. 21 UCLA finally caught Arizona State down the stretch and avoided an upset in the Pac-12 Tournament quarterfinals Thursday.
The Bruins finished the game on a 22-9 run, with Larry Drew II, Shabazz Muhammad and Travis Wear making the plays to push the top seed past ASU, which came into the tournament knowing it had to sweep its four games to make the NCAA field. UCLA is a shoo-in.
"Yeah, we're very fortunate," said UCLA freshman forward Muhammad, who had 16 points and nine rebounds, six on the offensive glass.
"In the first half I thought we played hard, but in the second half we really turned it up and it really had good karma for us. We just went down and really rebounded the ball. We outrebounded them, and then Travis had that big shot. We were just all really composed and that's what happens when you're composed and relaxed."
ASU guard Evan Gordon made two free throws with 1:43 remaining for a 74-72 lead, but Wear tied it with two free throws at 1:30. Gordon made another free throw at 1:19 before Wear hit a 14-footer from the right baseline for a 76-75 lead. After Jon Gilling missed a 3-pointer with 44 seconds left, UCLA held the ball, and Wear's 18-footer from the left wing made it 78-75.
Gilling missed another open 3-pointer in the final second, and David Wear made two free throws to ice it.
Players from both teams had to be separated after David Wear was fouled on the rebound by Carrick Felix. Muhammad said Felix intentionally kicked him, and ASU freshman guard Carson stepped between them. Officials looked at TV replays and assessed technical fouls to Felix, Carson, Muhammad and UCLA's Kyle Anderson before Wear made his free throws.
Travis Wear had 15 points and Larry Drew II had 20, including two 3-pointers in the final five minutes, the second giving UCLA a 72-70 lead, the Bruins' first since 7-5. Muhammad had eight points in the final 7:19, three times on second-chance points.
"Muhammad really was a difference maker down the home stretch, especially with his rebounding, and obviously Larry Drew really played an excellent game. We had a couple of opportunities on the offensive end that we didn't cash in, and as it turns out didn't have that room for error," ASU coach Herb Sendek said.
UCLA (24-8) trailed 53-38 after ASU (22-12) went on a 12-0 run early in the second half, and were down by 12 with six minutes left.
The Bruins will meet the winner of the Arizona-Colorado game in one semifinal. UCLA is 3-0 against those two this season, sweeping Arizona.
"These guys never quit. They never gave up. They never stopped believing in themselves and each other, and really found a way to battle back," UCLA coach Ben Howland said. "I'm really proud, because earlier in the season we had a couple of instances like that and we didn't come back. And this team is very resilient. Has great leadership, and just really proud of their toughness."
Arizona State (22-12) awaits an NIT berth.
"It just (stinks). Nothing else really to say," said ASU center Jordan Bachynski, who tied his career high with 22 points that he set in a 78-60 victory over the Bruins in the first of three meetings this season, UCLA's most decisive loss of the year.
Carson had 21 points after getting a career-high 34 points in an 89-88 overtime victory over Stanford in the first round of the tournament.
NOTES: ASU's Carson and UCLA's Muhammad were the Pac-12's co-freshmen of the year as selected by league coaches. Entering Thursday's game, Muhammad (18.3 points a game) and Carson (18.3) were tied for the NCAA Division 1 scoring lead among freshmen after Carson's 34-point game in the Sun Devils' first-round victory over Stanford. ... UCLA senior transfer guard Larry Drew II set a school season assists record (239) in the regular-season finale at Washington last Saturday, passing Pooh Richardson (236). ... Carson's 34 points Wednesday was the most by a freshman in Pac-12 tournament history. ... ASU 7-foot-2 center Jordan Bachynski set a Pac-12 record for blocked shots in a season with his three Thursday, giving him 116. He has one more than for ASU and Los Angeles Lakers forward Mario Bennett (115) in 1994-95.