TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — Leaning against a wall outside the locker room, UCLA coach Ben Howland saw guard Lazeric Jones walk by and asked him to come listen to a question from a reporter about his shooting. "It's kind of weird to tell a player to shoot more," the reporter said, turning to Jones.
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — Leaning against a wall outside the locker room, UCLA coach Ben Howland saw guard Lazeric Jones walk by and asked him to come listen to a question from a reporter about his shooting.
"It's kind of weird to tell a player to shoot more," the reporter said, turning to Jones.
All Jones could do is break into a big smile. He's working on it, coach.
More aggressive than he was the previous two games, Jones scored 13 of his 20 points as UCLA pulled away in the second half, lifting the Bruins to a 66-57 victory over Arizona State Thursday night.
"Even though I have to shoot more this year, I don't want to take all the shots," Jones said. "My teammates are hitting shots, so why not get them the ball? But if it's for the betterment of the team, I guess I take more shots."
Howland has been getting on Jones to shoot more since early in the season. Sometimes he does. He leads the team in scoring with 13.6 points per game, after all. Sometimes, though, he doesn't look for his shot; he took 11 combined against USC and St. John's the past two games.
After UCLA (16-12, 9-6 Pac-12) labored against Arizona State's slow-it-down approach in the first half, Jones took over early in the second to help the Bruins extend a 1-point halftime to 17. David Wear added 13 points to give the Bruins a season sweep of the Sun Devils.
"We can't win without him taking more shots, being more aggressive," Howland said.
Arizona State (8-20, 4-12) had seven scholarship players available with second-leading scorer Carrick Felix out due to an illness and again had trouble holding onto the ball. The Sun Devils had 18 turnovers that led to 19 points for UCLA and couldn't get shots to fall when the Bruins started extending the lead in the second half.
Jonathan Gilling had 17 points and Chris Colvin added 10 points and nine assists for Arizona State, which has lost four straight and nine of 11.
"The overall story line for our team tonight was making plays," Arizona State coach Herb Sendek said. "We had any number of point-blank opportunities to score that we didn't capitalize on."
Both teams went into the final two weeks of the regular season hoping for something positive at the end of disappointing years.
The conference preseason co-favorite, UCLA got off to a miserable start — the loss to Middle Tennessee State was particularly tough — and lost talented-but-troubled forward Reeves Nelson, who was dismissed from the team on Dec. 9 after twice being suspended for insubordinate behavior.
The Bruins have little shot at the postseason unless they win the Pac-12 tournament and were coming off a 66-63 loss to St. John's on Saturday after giving up 19 offensive rebounds that led to 26 second-chance points for the Red Storm.
Arizona State's season has been ugly the whole way through.
The young Sun Devils — with no seniors on their roster — have struggled with turnovers, ranking among the worst in the nation, and are the only team from one of the six biggest conferences to not win consecutive games all season.
Arizona State epitomized its inconsistent season in Saturday's 22-point loss to Washington State, when it scored a meager eight points in the first half and 42 in the second.
The Sun Devils had a similar mercurial run in the first half against UCLA, opening 6 of 7 from the floor before missing 11 straight shots and turning it over six times during a scoreless stretch that lasted nearly 8 minutes.
The good news for Arizona State was that UCLA labored after its own solid start, its lead only 20-16 after Colvin ended the Sun Devils' scoreless stretch with a three-point play.
Leading 25-24 at halftime, the Bruins started dropping in a few more shots in the second half, gradually stretching the lead to 47-41 midway through the second half.
Gilling kept Arizona State close with a 3-pointer and an acrobatic three-point play, but UCLA started to pull away after working the ball inside.
Jones hit a 3-pointer from the wing on a kickout with about 7 minutes left and Joshua Smith scored a couple of times around the rim after knocking defenders back, putting UCLA up 59-46.
Arizona State never recovered after UCLA's short run, making it a little closer only by hitting a few shots in the last two minutes.
"We came out sluggish in the second half and they jumped up on us," Colvin said. "We need to come out better in the second half and be ready to play."
Follow John Marshall on Twitter @jmarshallap