Arizona State came into their game with Oregon to get back on a winning streak. The Sun Devils were looking to make it two straight in Pac-12 Conference play. The Ducks were a bit wounded coming into Tempe after getting beat by their rival Oregon State.
The Sun Devils live and die by the three point shot. Oregon knew this and tried to slow that part of the ASU offense down. The Ducks used a variety of different presses and an extended zone defense to try and slow it down.
It was used with varying degrees of success.
Kodi Justice, Shannon Evans, and Tra Holder combined for 33 points in the first half. The trio of Sun Devil shooters threatened to put the game out of reach with their shooting. With every basket the Devils put in, the crowd at Wells Fargo Arena got more and more excited.
This Arizona State team feeds off that crowd support. With former ASU superstar, James Harden in attendance and cheering on the Devils, the Sun Devils were enjoying a comfortable lead.
However, this is college basketball. Everybody makes a run.
Oregon made a run in the last few minutes of the first half and tied it up at 41 at halftime.
Halftime adjustments are where games are won.
From Oregon’s perspective they needed to tighten the perimeter defense up and not lose sight of the man they were guarding. Arizona State can go from cold to hot in seconds. The Ducks had to stay aware of where Tra Holder, Kodi Justice, and Shannon Evans were on the court.
Arizona State lives and dies by the three ball. The Sun Devils needed to get a little more inside to loosen the perimeter defense up by the Ducks.
The Ducks were getting good looks at the basket early in the second half, but the shots were rattling in and out causing a bit of frustration. However, the Ducks found themselves only down by two with 11:52 left in the game.
That changed quickly.
Oregon goes on 7-0 run and gets up by three and you could feel the anxiety amongst the Sun Devil faithful start to set in.
With 3:49 left, the Ducks used good ball movement and some easy baskets to go up 68-60.
The Sun Devils cut the lead to 68-63 on 5-0 run with 3:09 left and the arena had some life left in it.
Would Arizona State pull off a bit of a miracle?
No. Not on this night.
Over the last 2:19 of the game the Ducks outscored the Sun Devils 8-7 and walked out of Wells Fargo Arena with a hard fought 76-72 win.
The Sun Devils walked off of their home court disappointed and frustrated. You could certainly feel the frustration in the post game press conference.
“The boards determined this game.” Kodi Justice said.
Justice was correct. Oregon is tall, athletic, and active on the floor. That created problems for the Sun Devils. The Ducks got to the boards and got a ton of second chance points by being so active.
Oregon held a 38-16 edge in points in the paint. The Ducks also had a 15-11 edge in second chance points as well.
“It wasn’t the result we were hoping for. We thought we had opportunities to take hold of the game and we allowed them to get back, especially, at the end of the first half.” Head coach Bobby Hurley mentioned after the game.
“They did a real nice job of tempo in the game.” Hurley said.
Coach Hurley was 100% right. The Ducks slowed the game down, they pressed, played zone, and got better contributions from their big men.
The Sun Devils also went through a spell where the shots were not falling. We all know that is a big part of their offense. It made the Devils gun shy about hoisting up any long range shots late in the game.
Missing free throws down the stretch did not help matters at all either. The Sun Devils shot 71% from the line. That will not get it done.
The Sun Devils are the hunted right now in the Pac-12. They are the highest ranked team in the Pac-12 Conference. Who knows where their ranking goes from here, but losing to an unranked team on your home floor doesn’t look good.
“We are not in sync right now.” Hurley said.
Is this a symptom of something bigger that is wrong with the Sun Devils?
We shall find out, but the Sun Devils looked a lot like they have the last couple of years and that is not a good thing.