Sendek thrilled with win over Stanford

An energetic Arizona State head coach expressed a lot of satisfaction with his team's performance in its penultimate regular season win in a late start Thursday.

After Arizona State senior forward Shaquielle McKissic twisted and turned his way down the baseline to make a driving layup with 4:49 left in the second half, ASU head coach Herb Sendek feverishly threw his hands up in the air, turned to the crowd and yelled at them to stand up.

Twenty minutes after ASU pulled out a 67-62 win Thursday night against Stanford at Wells Fargo Arena, Sendek was still hyped as ever, seemingly even more so than after the big ASU win against Arizona in early February.

“That’s what our team needed tonight,” Sendek said of his antics. “I wanted the fans to appreciate the effort our guys were giving, give us the best home court possible and you’re right, I was, I need a shower.”

In one of Sendek’s most passionate and animated nights of the season, ASU improved to 16-14 and 8-9 in Pac-12 play and Stanford fell to 18-11 and 9-8.

With the win by ASU, Washington State’s loss and California’s loss to Arizona Thursday night, it appears the Sun Devils will be no worse than the No. 7 seed in the Pac-12 Tournament that starts Wednesday in Las Vegas.

If ASU finds itself in a two-team tiebreaker scenario for the tournament, the results of head-to-head competition during the regular season will be the first tiebreaker criteria.

Next will be each team’s record against the team occupying the highest position in the regular standings, so in this case, Arizona who ASU split the series with, 1-1.

ASU will play California in Tempe at 12:30 p.m. Saturday and if ASU wins and Stanford loses to Arizona, ASU gets the No.5 seed.

Despite the No. 5 seed still being reach for the Sun Devils, Sendek said post-game he doesn’t want his team thinking about the possibilities, only to look ahead to California on Saturday.

“Our seed is irrelevant,” Sendek said. “I don’t even want to look at those standings. I want to focus on Cal. We know we have a game on Wednesday. We know we aren’t getting a bye. We’ll be there to play whoever our seed tells us to play.”

While Sendek doesn’t want to pay attention to the seeding, the Sun Devils did themselves a favor with their win against a tough Stanford team.

“I’m as proud as our team’s effort as I have been all season,” Sendek said. “I thought our defense in the first half was terrific. Not withstanding the second shots we gave up. I thought our poise and composure was equally outstanding in the second half when Stanford closed the gap on us.”

McKissic was the overall leader for ASU, completing an unusual number of and-1 plays including one of the no look variety that somehow found the bottom of the net. He finishing with a team-high 23 points on 9 for 15 shooting from the field and seven rebounds.

“Coaches tell me don’t settle for three, even if it is open you know,” McKissic said. “They close out recklessly, that was the scout on them and just to drive the ball and jump stop and look for the open man or look for the shot.

“Stanford is a good team and I was watching the film from last game and I could tell how timid I was driving the ball and we needed this win tonight just like we need every win from here on out.”

Despite ASU being up 14 points at halftime, the game came down to the final minutes with ASU senior guard Bo Barnes one of the heroes of the night once again with a pick-pocket steal and transition and-1 layup against Stanford’s senior center Stefan Nastic with 18 seconds left in the game.

Putting ASU up 64-57 with the made free throw, Stanford senior guard Chasson Randle made a three to get Stanford within four points, but made free throws by ASU and missed shots by Stanford put the game away.

ASU held in check Stanford’s big three, Randle, Nastic and guard/senior forward Anthony Brown for most of the night.

“They got three prolific scorers,” Sendek said. “I mean three guys who can literally single-handedly dismantle a defense and they command tremendous respect and attention.

Randle, one of the top players in the Pac-12, had a mere two points in the first half, finishing with 16. Brown had four points in the first half and Nastic had eight points in the first half to lead Stanford.

Along with keeping Stanford’s shooters in check, ASU dominated the paint, scoring 40 of its 67 points in the paint compared to Stanford’s 22. Stanford’s lack of ability to score in the paint, led to a poor 29.6 percent shooting night in the first half and 40 percent overall.

Despite dominating the paint, ASU found itself in a familiar uncomfortable position with junior post-player Eric Jacobsen and sophomore forward Savon Goodman getting into foul trouble once more.

Goodman picked up his fourth foul with 14:32 left in the second half and Jacobsen picked up his fourth foul with 13:46 left in the second half.

Foul trouble has been a constant theme for ASU throughout the season and especially against longer and lankier teams who play in the post, the Sun Devils can’t afford to sit Jacobsen and Goodman for extended minutes.

Jacobsen didn’t take a shot during Thursday’s game and had four rebounds in 15 minutes of playing time.

Behind the strength of Goodman in the first half, ASU went on a 12-0 run over a three-minute span to end the half and lead 37-23 at halftime.

Goodman sparked the 12-0 run after grabbing down offensive rebound that lead to an exhilarating baseline dunk with 3:07 remaining in the first half.

After Stanford missed a three on the other end, ASU senior forward Gilling missed a three of his own and Goodman again cleaned up and put it back in, putting the Sun Devils up 29-23 with 2:33 remaining in the first half.

Both teams played poorly for a majority of the first half, with ASU getting outrebounded on both ends of the floor until about the 3:00 mark when the energy picked up and ASU started knocking down shots.

“In a game where it wasn’t always pretty, I really admired our team’s toughness competitive spirit and passion,” Sendek said. “They played hard tonight. They beat a really good team. That’s a talented basketball team. That’s a heck of a win for us tonight.”

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