Every time Cody Riley touched the ball in overtime, things went UCLA’s way.
The redshirt junior forward took a pass in the paint and made a layup in which he was fouled. He missed a shot but was fouled going up for a putback. Another touch ended in a spin move for a layup.
Riley sparked the Bruins on a night they had been largely listless, helping them prevail for an 81-75 victory over severely short-handed Arizona State on Thursday at Desert Financial Arena.
Riley scored eight of his career-high 22 points in overtime and added 13 rebounds, two blocks, two assists and a steal in what amounted to his finest all-around performance.
“I had an advantage in the post and my teammates got me the ball in the right spot and I was fortunate enough to finish the plays,” Riley said after two Sun Devils post players fouled out, “so I give all the credit to my teammates.”
Even Riley’s missed free throw in overtime resulted in something good for the Bruins. Johnny Juzang grabbed the offensive rebound and found David Singleton for a three-pointer that gave UCLA (8-2, 4-0 Pac-12) a 77-69 lead, helping to secure its third consecutive victory.
Bruins coach Mick Cronin lamented not going to Riley more after making it a priority in practice this week.
“Cody does a great job in the low post and we need to do a better job of feeding him all the time when he’s in the game, to be honest with you,” Cronin said.
On a night the rosters were depleted, the stands practically vacant, the big-picture meaning of it all probably minimal, UCLA found itself in another taut game.
Singleton made two three-pointers in overtime on the way to 14 points, becoming the only other Bruin besides Riley to finish in double figures. UCLA scrapped for offensive production as a result of committing 18 turnovers to Arizona State’s 11 and repeatedly taking bad shots.
The Bruins won in part because they committed zero turnovers in overtime while making four of six shots.
UCLA had a chance to win near the end of regulation but guard Tyger Campbell’s lob for Jalen Hill sailed over his head out of bounds with the score tied at 65-65 with five-tenths of a second left.
Campbell made one of two free throws with 9.9 seconds left to give the Bruins a 65-63 lead in regulation. But he fouled Arizona State’s Alonzo Verge Jr. on a floater with 5.8 seconds left and Verge made both free throws to tie the score. Verge finished with 25 points for the Sun Devils (4-4, 1-1 Pac-12), who were playing for the first time since Dec. 16.
Arizona State was missing four players — preseason All-American Remy Martin, starting forward Jalen Graham, part-time starter Taeshon Cherry and reserve Jaelen House. The absence of the four players took their combined average of 29.9 points off the board for the Sun Devils.
Cronin noted that the Sun Devils still had a pair of probable NBA first-round draft picks in Christopher and Bagley as well as a fighting spirit.
“Teams play really well when they’re under adverse circumstances because they know they have to rally and give everything they’ve got and that’s a credit to coach [Bobby] Hurley,” Cronin said. “So it didn’t surprise me that they rallied around their lack of depth.”
UCLA announced that it would make up its postponed game against Oregon on Jan. 19 at Matthew Knight Arena as part of a stretch in which the Bruins will play three road games in five days. After playing the Ducks, UCLA will play California on Jan. 21 and Stanford on Jan. 23 in the Bay Area before returning home.
The game between UCLA and Oregon scheduled for Dec. 23 was postponed after a game official tested positive for COVID-19 and the other two officials were quarantined as a result of contact tracing.