Second Half Woes Sink Sun Devils

LAS VEGAS - Chasson Randle scored a game-high 21 points as Stanford used a 26-8 second half run to knock off the Arizona State 79-58 in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 Tournament on Thursday night.

Just as they had in their two previous games, the Sun Devils started off the night cold from the field, missing their first six shot attempts as the Cardinal charged ahead to a 9-0 lead. The senior Randle scored seven points early on to lead the Stanford scoring attack, helping the Cardinal increase their lead to as many as 10 points in the first half before Arizona State finally found its rhythm offensively.

Bo Barnes and Jon Gilling came off the bench for the Sun Devils and scored 10 points apiece, while combining to shoot 5-7 from behind the three point line as managed to pull within three, 30-27, by the break.

The Cardinal began the second half 8-11 from the floor and jumped out to a 49-36 lead before Shaquille McKissic help spark another Sun Devil rally. The senior scored seven of ASU's next nine points to trim the Stanford lead to six with 8:56.

But after going scoreless in the first half, Stanford's Dwight Powell erupted for 15 points in the second half, leading the Cardinal on a 26-8 run to put the Sun Devils away for good.

"On a night when we had some guys really struggling on offense, we didn't give ourselves enough of a chance defensively in the second half," said Head Coach Herb Sendek afterwards. "We just had so many opportunities that we didn't convert and you could sort of just see that carry over to our defense."

"We just have some guys who, you know, are struggling offensively. They're trying, they want to do better than that, but against a good offensive team like Stanford, you've got to be able to convert some on offense."

The Cardinal shot 17-24 (.708) from the floor and 5-7 (.714) from three point range in the second half, looking more like the team who had a first round bye while the Sun Devils struggled to adjust defensively.

"I think they came up with more energy," said point guard Jahii Carson. "They played free, they played basketball, and they weren't worried about anything. They came out and made plays and we didn't. We didn't make shots; we didn't come out and defend the basketball. You give up as many buckets as we did and as many offensive rebounds, you're not going to win basketball games."

Josh Huestis and Anthony Brown, the Pac-12's Most Improved Player of the Year, helped pace the Cardinal offense, finishing with 12 points and 11 points, respectively. But on a night when Stanford could seemingly do no wrong in the second half, it was Powell who led the way.

The senior finished with 15 points on 6-8 shooting, exploiting the Sun Devils on the inside, outside, and even in transition. Powell also added five rebounds, two assists and a pair of steals.

"Stanford is a phenomenal team," said center Jordan Bachynski. "When they're firing on all cylinders, there's no better team in the country. I really do believe that. They have shooters, they have drivers, and they have athletic guys."

"Dwight Powell, every time we've gone against him he's a tough match-up for us because, I mean, I'm a seven foot center and I'm not used to guarding on the wing. When they take me out, they try to post him up and it's a really tough match-up. He's a phenomenal player."

Four players scored in double-figures for the Sun Devils on Thursday, led by the junior Gilling who finished with 13 points. Barnes and McKissic each added 12 points while Carson finished 10 points on just 4-13 shooting.

Stanford out-rebounded Arizona State 34-23 while also holding a 32-24 advantage in points in the paint.

Bachynski, the Pac-12's Defensive Player of the Year, was limited to seven points on 1-5 shooting to go along with five rebound and one blocked shot.

The loss marked Arizona State's third consecutive defeat - the first three game losing streak of the season for the Sun Devils. ASU has also lost five of its last seven games and has not won away from Tempe since January 29th when the Sun Devils defeated California 89-78 in overtime.

"Our guys don't feel good right now," commented Sendek. "We haven't played our best. It would be disingenuous to say that they don't hurt and feel disappointed by the way they played but I've been doing this long enough to see so many teams lose in a conference tournament and then make a deep run in the NCAA tournament. Things change quickly."

"We've got to press reset," added Carson. "We've got to look forward. We can't stress and just get down on ourselves. We have a three game losing streak but things happen."

With a third place regular season conference finish and nine wins over top-100 RPI teams, the Sun Devils still expect to be one of the 64 teams in this year's NCAA Tournament. While Thursday's loss puts a sour note on the end of otherwise successful season for Arizona State, the Sun Devils are confident they'll have another chance to turn things around.

"I have faith in our team," said Bachynski. "We're really strong guys, mentally and physically. I really feel like we're going to respond in the right way and I'm going to be praying on Selection Sunday and everyday leading up to it. Hopefully our resume is what it needs to be and I'm just going to have faith that we're in."

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