Ducks Edge Devils in OT
Most of Friday night’s matchup was simply put-- a game of basketball. Aside from a few thunderous dunks from the Oregon Ducks the game did not see a lot of flashy play through the majority of its duration. But rather it played host to an above-average amount of mid-range jumpers and offensive production when both teams stabbed toward the offensive lanes. This rudimentary contest took a turn toward the theatric at the end of the second half and into overtime. The Sun Devils were down by a single point in its last possession of overtime. The team had two timeouts left and perhaps using one of those timeouts would have prevented it from fumbling through handing off the ball and then air balling a three-pointer as the buzzer sounded. “We wanted to get a drive to the basket,” Herb Sendek said after the game. If that is the case, letting the young men play certainly had its advantages. Oregon would have been able to set up its defense, but ASU would also have had about 15 second on the clock after it passed half-court to move around the floor and secure a quality shot. A quality shot much like the Sun Devils secured at the end of the second half to tie the game 60-60 when McKissic received the ball after curling onto the left wing and nailed a three-pointer with 1.2 seconds left on the clock. McKissic was clearly frustrated after the game and downplayed the shot. “I had the same opportunity out there in Eugene. So as far as that shot, I counted that good from the moment I grabbed it and started going [to the] left.” McKissic was the game’s leading scorer with a career-high 24 points on nine for 18 shooting from the floor. Friday night’s game did not headline the three-point shooting abilities of Bo Barnes and Jon Gilling. The two combined for one for nine from behind the line, which meant the Sun Devils’ offensive production would have to be fathered by its ball movement. Much is made about ASU’s off the ball and player movement because the offense is night and day when the team is moving and when it is not. “I think we played like we typically play on offense. Sometimes it sticks when guys are waiting for a ball screen,” Sendek said. “But this team hasn’t had an issue moving the ball.” That is not necessarily true. Yes, the Sun Devils will swing the ball around the perimeter but quite often the bodies along that perimeter do not move. In Friday’s game those bodies were in motion and that was largely due to Tra Holder’s work at the point guard position. Holder finished the game scoring 16 points, four rebounds and three assists. Earlier in the season Holder was prone to dribbling the ball at the top of the key for lengthy periods of a possession. Against Oregon the freshman consistently penetrated the lane and free-throw line extended areas of the court. Holder’s movement toward those areas allowed one of his teammates on the wing to slide to the top of the key and it therefore catalyzed movement from the other players positioned on the floor. The movement led to Holder knocking down elbow jumpers and opened up passing lanes into the post as well as cutting wing men. The contest was a low scoring affair and each team’s points only came when the five young men on the court collectively moved together in unison. Although ASU’s had offensive spurts that were atop its most encouraging this season the team was still clearly displeased with its overtime loss. When coach Sendek was asked the difference between a win and a loss in the game the coach succinctly said, “Free throw shooting.” “Got to make free throws in a close game to win.” Oregon shot 12 for 14 from the line compared to ASU’s seven for 15. “That was our game to win,” McKissic stated. McKissic thought that game was his teams to win but the fifth year senior also said that he is still 100 percent confident his team will be returning to the tournament. More W’s will need to be tallied in the win column for that to occur and ASU’s next chance to do that will be against the University of Arizona on February 7th.
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