Devils' comeback falls short

Despite trailing by as many 16 points in the second half, Arizona State had a chance to tie the game late but a Bo Barnes three-point attempt with five seconds remaining rimmed out as the Sun Devils fell to Stanford on Saturday, 62-59.

After an Aaron Bright free throw gave the Cardinal a six point cushion, Jon Gilling connected on his third three point attempt of the game to cut the lead in half with less than 14 seconds remaining in the game. A Chris Colvin steal would lead to Barnes' missed three point attempt but the Sun Devils were given one last chance when Stanford's Dwight Powell's full court inbounds heave struck the scoreboard, resulting in a turnover and giving ASU the ball underneath its own basket.

However, Jahii Carson struggled to find an open man on the ensuing inbounds attempt as his pass was stolen by Stanford's Andy Brown and the Cardinal escaped with the win.

Powell led Stanford (15-9, 6-5 Pac-12) with a game-high 22 points and 10 rebounds, as the Cardinal won their fourth game in their last outings and defeated Arizona State (18-6, 7-4) for the fifth consecutive time.

The Cardinal entered the game shooting 44% from behind the three point line as a team, tops in the Pac-12, and proceeded to make 7-11 in the first half as they used a 14-0 run to jump ahead of the Sun Devils early on. The Cardinal shot 58% in the first half, powered by junior Jon Gage, who came off the bench to score 11 points on 4-4 shooting as Stanford led 36-28 at the break.

"They're the number one three point shooting team in our league," said Head Coach Herb Sendek afterwards. "They're a very physical, aggressive team. I think they're outstanding, I really do. I think they're a really good team who presents some matchup problems, not just for us, but many of their opponents."

"It was difficult just because each and every guy on their team can step behind the arc and knock it down," added Carrick Felix. "In the first half Gage came off the bench and he was their X factor. I think it comes down to us just focusing and executing what the defensive plans are and just knowing personnel; knowing who the shooters are and who the rebounders are and stuff like that. We've just got to match each team's physicality and intensity."

The Cardinal would push their lead to as many as 16 a little more five minutes into the second half before ASU turned up its defensive intensity and slowly began chipping away at the Cardinal lead.

The Sun Devils switched to a three guard lineup midway through the second in an effort to neutralize the Stanford frontcourt and infuse some energy into the offense. With Felix and Gilling guarding the post, ASU was able to jumpstart a run of their own, pulling to within five with 7:15 to go.

The Sun Devils went the final 14:23 of the game without the services of either Jordan Bachysnki or Ruslan Pateev, in favor of the small lineup. ASU outscored the taller Cardinal 25-13 the remainder of the way as both centers watched from the bench.

"The posts were pretty much getting whatever they wanted to do so we tried to switch it up and catch them off guard," commented Carson. "A little bit of pressure on the guards, make them speed it up a little bit and get them to not get the ball to the bigs as much. When we play like that I think it causes teams a little bit more trouble. The guards can't get the ball to the bigs and takes them out of the flow of the game."

"We weren't getting any benefit on offense from it and defensively we were having a hard time with our bigs out on the perimeter guarding them, so we tried to matchup with them a little better by going small ball," added Sendek. I think it helped us close the gap."

Unfortunately the Sun Devils would hit a cold spell, going nearly five mites without scoring a point as Stanford pushed its lead back up to nine. The Sun Devils would close on an 8-2 run but came up short as both Evan Gordon and Barnes missed open looks at tying the game near the end of regulation.

ASU shot just 34% from the field for the game, including 7-23 from behind the three point line.

"We definitely didn't play ASU basketball," said Felix. "I think we kind of took a lot of quick shots and just got out of our offense a little bit. It just comes down to playing hard and free throws. It always comes down to little things like free throws, 50-50 balls and rebounds."

The Sun Devils entered the game shooting 62.5% as a team from the free throw line, which ranked 326th nationally, but had yet to lose a game due to their poor shooting. But on Saturday they shot just 8-16 from the charity stripe, squandering any chance of pulling off the comeback.

"It's very frustrating because I see us working on it each and every day," said Felix. "It's just a focus thing where you step to the line in the game with the crowd there, there's going to be a lot of pressure but you've just got to clear your head and focus and knock the free throws down. Right now in college basketball that's what gets teams wins. That's just something that we've got to get back to work on and keep chipping away at.

"I know it's long in the season but we still got to get back on the line and practice and get them up."

Felix led the Sun Devils with 16 points and 10 rebounds. It marked the first time this season that Arizona State has lost when the forward grabs 10 or more rebounds in a game.

Jahii Carson helped out with 15 points, five rebounds and four assists.

The Sun Devils lost for the first time this season when out-rebounding their opponent (ASU was +2 against Stanford) and when holding the opposition to 62 or fewer points.

Jon Gilling added 13 points on just 3-10 shooting in the loss, to go along with six rebounds, five assists and two blocks.

The Sun Devils will travel to face the mountain schools next week as they take on Utah Wednesday night before facing off with Colorado on Saturday.

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