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Sun Devils Enter Monday's Matchup at UCLA with Something to Prove

Arizona State will need another strong performance to again upset the Bruins, yet no time is greater than the present after a down season.

There's no hiding the down season the Arizona State Sun Devils have experienced. 

From forward Marcus Bagley's injury (Bagley hasn't played since Nov. 15) to numerous canceled and postponed games thanks to COVID (and even a power outage was sprinkled in), it's fair to say ASU's 2021-22 basketball season hasn't gone according to plan. 

However, the Sun Devils have recently found their form, winning their last three games by an average of 15.6 points. 

It's only the second time all season Arizona State has strung three consecutive victories together, and the first where all opponents have been in the Pac-12 conference. 

A potential bid for the NCAA tournament appears out of reach, as ASU's lone path to March Madness will come via a magical run in the Pac-12 tournament in Las Vegas later in March. 

Five regular-season games are remaining for ASU to improve its seeding heading into the Pac-12 tournament, and the biggest test comes in Monday night's road trip to battle No. 13 UCLA. 

The Bruins are out for revenge following Arizona State's 87-84 upset in Tempe on Feb. 5 and are in search of a much better performance after allowing what is still a season-high in points allowed. 

UCLA has won three of its last four matchups heading into Monday, dropping a close 67-64 loss to No. 21 USC on Feb. 12. 

The Bruins currently have four starters averaging over 11 points per game, with guard Johnny Juzang leading the way with 17.9. Juzang had 20 points in 50 minutes played in the triple overtime loss to Arizona State earlier this month. 

UCLA, which sits second in Pac-12 three-point numbers with an average of 35.5%, will look to improve from their 22.7% performance from downtown in the prior meeting with Arizona State. 

The Bruins also hope to make good on their seven steals per game, forcing the Sun Devils to turn the ball over 11 times in their first matchup. 

UCLA also wants to erase a three-game deficit from Pac-12 leaders Arizona before the season ends, and a victory over Arizona State could potentially spring them into pristine form to make that happen. 

As for the Sun Devils, they're not interested in playing spoiler quite yet. Arizona State still believes a strong Pac-12 tournament run is possible, and a sweep over UCLA would be a major emphasis of precisely what damage they can do when all cylinders are firing.