Coming into this Saturday evening game in Tempe, Arizona, Arizona State and Stanford were hoping to keep their slim N.I.T. hopes alive. Both teams were desperate for a win. Head coach Bobby Hurley is trying to get his troops to finish the season strong and to get a win or two in the Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Tournament.
The Sun Devils came out firing from three point land and the shots were dropping in like rain from a desert thunderstorm. The crowd was energized and Arizona State was feeding off of that energy. At one point the Sun Devils were shooting 56% from the three point stripe and things were looking up for the Devils.
Stanford took a bit to get rolling. Phoenix area product Dorian Pickens got the Cardinal on the board first and then another Phoenix area player, Michael Humphrey started asserting himself down low. At the half Humphrey already had a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds. With his size at 6’9” and with the Sun Devils starting four guards it was amazing Michael Humphrey didn’t have more points or rebounds.
Usually when a team comes out shooting hot, like Arizona State, they tend to cool off at some point. That’s exactly what happened with the Sun Devils. By the end of the first half, the Sun Devils were shooting 43% and at times were reverting back to an old habit. The old habit of hoisting shots up in a wild manner with nobody expecting the shot to be taken.
Stanford went into the half up by one at 33-32.
The Sun Devils had to figure out a way to crash the boards because they were losing that battle in a major way. Stanford was beating the Sun Devils 26-13 on the boards.
Getting rebounds is a skill, but it is also desire. No desire was shown by Arizona State even with their smaller size.
As the second half began it was clear that Stanford was going to try and utilize their size advantage.
Reid Travis, a 6’8” Cardinal forward who could probably play defensive end for Stanford football coach David Shaw was muscling his way to the hoop. Midway through the second half Travis had 12 points and seven rebounds and when you combined that with Michael Humphrey who had 12pts and 11 rebounds half way through the second half it was quite obvious that the Cardinal were trying to win the game with their size advantage.
Stanford started to get a bit of breathing room as the game progressed in the second half. The Cardinal had a 58-50 lead with seven minutes left in the game.
As quickly as the Cardinal got the lead, the lead disappeared and with about five and half minutes left in the game, the game was tied at 59. Now, it was anybody’s ball game. With any tight game the deciding factors come down to shot making and defense. Stanford could go inside-out with their offense, the Sun Devils could really only rely on their outside shooting.
Stanford called timeout with 1:51 left in the game and holding onto a precarious four point lead at 67-63.
The Sun Devils had to get stops and get quality looks at the basket. Stanford had to get buckets and force the Sun Devils to use time off the clock.
It didn’t happen that way. The Sun Devils got timely three point scores from Torian Graham and Stanford folded like a deck of cards.
Graham hit big basket after big basket. With each make, the crowd erupted and gave the Sun Devils what they needed to finish off the game with a 75-69 victory over Stanford.
After the game the excitement from head coach Bobby Hurley was certainly evident.
“So proud of my team. The courage, the heart they showed when they were down 58-47. Great defense and creating turnovers was big for us. Torian also showed what he can do.” Hurley said after the game.
He should be proud of his team. The Sun Devils did show tremendous grit in this win. The key for Arizona State has always been about getting momentum to start a run of wins. With the regular season coming to a close in the next couple of weeks, the Sun Devils have to have some confidence going into the conference tournament. This win against Stanford might just be the catalyst.