Tommy Smith wasn't born the last time Arizona State swept UCLA in basketball. So he understands what he and the seniors accomplished Saturday afternoon at Wells Fargo Arena.
"A lot of teams haven't done that," the Phoenix North High School graduate said. "We're leaving something. The freshmen have something to build. We're building them a lot of confidence."
The Sun Devils took another step toward ending an eight-year NCAA Tournament drought with an 85-69 Pac-10 victory over the Bruins, their first season sweep since the 1979-80 season.
The Devils (17-7, 9-4 Pac-10) overcame a 39-35 halftime deficit to complete a sweep of the Los Angeles schools this week.
Freshman center Ike Diogu had 26 points, senior guard Curtis Millage added 22, Smith had 16 and reserve point guard Kyle Dodd had 14, one off his career best.
UCLA got balanced scoring, outrebounded ASU by one and shot 54.8 percent in taking a four-point lead into the locker room.
"Coach (Rob Evans) told us we'd worked too hard to play sluggish," said Smith, who became the 28th ASU player to score 1,000 points. "He got on the seniors. The seniors have been leading us from the beginning. . . . Our intensity wasn't there."
Things picked up in the second half.
"We rebounded better and defended better," Evans said. "The guys relaxed."
The Sun Devils used a 14-2 spurt that began with a 15-foot jumper by Jason Braxton to take control of the game at the midpoint of the second half.
"Any big run we have, the key is our defense," Dodd said.
After Jason Kapono (21 points) knocked down a 12-footer for UCLA's last lead, 51-50, Diogu made two foul shots and had an inside attempt goaltended by UCLA's Ray Young.
After an errant pass by Young, Smith scored on a lob out of a timeout. He was fouled but missed the foul shot. ASU, however, got the rebound.
Millage cashed in the second chance with a 3-pointer and a 59-51 lead. Another 3-pointer by Millage from the right baseline put UCLA in a hole from which these Bruins are incapable of overcoming. Not in an unfriendly environment.
"When Curtis gets hot," Dodd said, "it's hard to stop him."
UCLA cut the deficit to 64-56, but Dodd drained a 3, his second of the game and just his seventh of the season. UCLA closed to 69-62, but Diogu converted a three-point play with 7:27 remaining.
Then the Bruins' (5-16, 2-10) losing habits kicked in.
"In the second half they took control of the paint," said UCLA coach Steve Lavin. "They got some crash tip dunks. . . . All year we've struggled to get over the hump."
The Devils’ aggressiveness resulted in 14 free throws in the second half of which 13 went through the net. For the afternoon, ASU was 20-of-22, the 10th best foul shooting night (90.9 percent) in school history. Diogu was 3-of-7 from the field in the first half as ASU shot 48.1 percent.
"There were a few plays I was tip-toeing," Diogu said. In the second half, "I came out with a passion to finish."
Kapono was the only consistent scorer for UCLA in the second half. Freshman center Ryan Hollins had a pair of spectacular dunks in the first half in scoring seven points, but had only two in the second.
Hollins' plays, though, inspired Smith.
"I got caught a couple times," getting dunked on, Smith said. "When they're attacking the rim, you've got to play at the rim. It was fun."
Smith had three of his own crowd-pleasing dunks in the second half, one that was nullified when the officials called an over-the-back foul.
UCLA is a bad team, but the current players still carry the school's history. The last ASU team to sweep UCLA was the team of Kurt Nimphius, Sam Williams, Alton Lister, Byron Scott and Lafayette "Fat" Lever.
"We haven't beaten them three times in a row in a long time," Evans said. "It says a little bit about where our program is."
\BONUS SHOT: ASU announced 300 standing-room-only tickets for next Saturday's game with top-ranked Arizona will go on sale at 9 a.m. Tuesday. The tickets, priced at $25, can only be purchased by calling (480) 965-2381. Callers will be limited to four tickets.