Eric Jacobsen desired to win more than anything on Senior Night. Arizona State tallied 58 wins in Tempe in the last 4 seasons but leaving his home court crowned with success meant more to him. He was not rewarded.
The Valley product out of Hamilton High School in Chandler, AZ deserved better after a four-year career in his backyard. The senior forward did everything he could to carry the Sun Devils to his last win on Sunday, scoring a career-high 20 points alongside an efficient shooting (8/12), but it was not enough to beat #25 California. ASU lost 68-65 to put an end to a highly inconsistent regular season.
Hard to blame him.
"It doesn't mean a lot," an emotional Jacobsen commented about his last performance. "For me, it's not about points or stats or anything like that. I would've liked to have won."
From the start, everybody knew he wanted to win badly. The senior scored the team's first 4 points, played good-to-great defense in the first half against talented young men, Golden Bears' Ivan Rabb and Jaylen Brown. He then turned into a firefighter during the crucial 18-5 run by California in the second half. Unfortunately, Eric Jacobsen was called for illegal blocking with 1:03 remaining in the game. This controversial whistle sealed the win for the Golden Bears, as Arizona State was only down by 2.
Such an irony. There is virtually no game when "EJ" did not force a charge.
Eric Jacobsen ended his collegiate career in Wells Fargo Arena with a boom. He completed three games in a row with double digits in points for the first time with the Sun Devils, scoring a total of 47 points over the stretch. He is not one of the best players Arizona State ever witnessed on the court, but he definitely was one to remember.
Sunday was a night that obviously meant a lot to him. He was playing for the last time inside Wells Fargo Arena and Senior Night was dedicated to celebrate his lengthy career with ASU. Gerry Blakes and Willie Atwood are also departing the program, but Eric Jacobsen is the only player from the group to have bled maroon and gold for 4 years. The forward played his 129th game for Arizona State against California, tied for 4th in school history. He started with the Sun Devils for 79 games, in other words, for the past 2 seasons and a half.
Only a few ASU basketball players ended their career with similar accomplishments. Eric Jacobsen stayed true to the Valley, and could be compared to Arizona State's football star player, D.J. Foster. But unlike his fellow Sun Devil, Jacobsen gave his soul to ASU in a specific manner. He did not carry the team on his back, playing behind Jordan Bachynski for the early part of his career or performing in the shadows of feisty guards lately. He did not offer highlight plays, either.
He provided instead invaluable qualities: stability in the paint, work ethic, commitment.
Eric Jacobsen embodies the tough job that is done in the dark, in a sport that is defined by the spotlights. He is not very athletic, an issue that has been raised in 2015-16 in a loaded and incredibly talented Pac-12 conference, but he is technical, understands perfectly the positioning defense and stays active on the court no matter what. The forward has been relatively effective under two different regimes, whether it was under Herb Sendek or Bobby Hurley.
Playing in the paint turned out to be Arizona State's Achilles' heel over the past couple years. Eric Jacobsen often was the guarantee around the rim despite a screaming lack of toughness and physicality. He knew, indeed, how to use his length and how to position himself in order to draw misses or offensive fouls. Also, do you remember when he used to have issues staying out of foul trouble? Neither am I. This is the result of hard work that ultimately paid off.
His commitment to Arizona State goes deeper than four years spent on the court. He was and still is often overlooked by fans but few had a similar impact with the Sun Devils. He did not lead the team in scoring, he did not lead the team in rebounding, he did not lead the team in blocking.
But his worth found itself in the dark. Without Eric Jacobsen, ASU could not have won as many games.
Now, he gets one more chance to show his impact in Las Vegas for the Pac-12 Tournament, starting Tuesday against Oregon State (8:30pm PT on Pac-12 Networks). The Sun Devils, with a deep run at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, could obtain a NIT berth to cap the first season with Bobby Hurley at the helm of a rising program.