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Graham's career best not enough as Sun Devils lose to No. 1 Oregon in Pac-12 quarterfinals

Arizona State had a hot start out of the gate, but only shot 24.2 percent from the field in the second half, unable to keep up with No. 1 seed Oregon.

LAS VEGAS — Pac-12 conference scoring leader Torian Graham saved his biggest performance of his career for one of Las Vegas' biggest stages. 

Scoring a career-best 32 points on 12-of-25 shooting from the field, 7-of-16 from behind the arc, Graham singlehandedly kept ASU in Thursday's Pac-12 Tournament quarterfinal game with No .1 seed Oregon. 

Seemingly snubbed by Pac-12 coaches earlier in the week, Graham wasn't one of the 15 players selected for the Pac-12 first or second team despite leading the league in scoring in conference play. He was the only ASU player who received an honorable mention. 

"Graham is a phenomenal scorer," Oregon head coach Dana Altman said. "He had 16 at halftime and really got it going. Sixteen (points) in the second half. He got 32 against us and a really good scorer. Someone who gave us fits."

Whether it was the snub or the potential of knowing it could be his final collegiate game, Graham came to play. But it was going to take a lot more than that to beat the Ducks. And that didn't happen. 

In a 80-57 loss at T-Mobile Arena to No. 1 seed Oregon, other than Graham, ASU shot 7-of-36 from the field. In the second half, ASU only shot 24.3 percent (8-of-33). 

"We hit a wall," ASU head coach Bobby Hurley said. "Whether it be fatigue or wear from yesterday's game, we didn't have the same pop in the second half and our defense didn't help. They are an elite team and have the type of defense that will keep them in games." 

After having to fend off a feisty Stanford comeback in ASU’s 98-88 overtime win over the Cardinal on Wednesday, the Sun Devils appeared gassed as they crumbled late in the game. 

After a tight back and forth first half, Oregon came out of the second half on a 13-2 run in just over five minutes, contrast to 1-of-11 shooting from the field for the Sun Devils. The Sun Devils were unable to counteract Oregon’s attack as it saw the game start to slip out of its grasp. 

In ASU's win over Stanford on Wednesday, three starters played over 40 minutes: Holder (43), Justice (42) and Evans (41). Graham played 39 minutes and Oleka played 34 minutes. 

"They've sacrificed so much," Hurley said. "They have been unbelievable - the five starters playing all the minutes they've played."

After making it past the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament for the first time since 2013, ASU finished the season to 15-18 overall in Hurley's second year at the helm. 

"I just think for what we been through this year and the adversity we had, the transfers, the academic redshirts and injuries, these guys sacrificed and gave as much as they could give," Hurley said. "I loved coaching them and will remember this year in a very positive way." 

Due to graduation, the Sun Devils will lose senior Obinna Oleka and Graham next season, but will return junior guards Tra HolderShannon Evans and Kodi Justice to hold down the backcourt. ASU will also still be developing freshmen Ramon Vila, Jethro Tshisumpa and Andre Adams. ASU will also add commits Remy Martin, Kimani Lawrence and Kenny Wooten as the Sun Devils will look for a return back to the NCAA tournament.

But despite a promising future, on Thursday, Holder, Evans and Justice combined for only 19 points on 4-of-27 from the field, with Holder going 0-of-7. 

"Disappointing end," Hurley said. "These guys played so well yesterday and competed hard today. Played a great basketball team and we weren't as good as we needed to be offensively bottom line." 

Out of the gates ASU went stride for stride with Oregon, with Graham heating up from behind the arc with four made three-pointers in the first half alone. In the Sun Devils last matchup against Oregon, Graham was 3-of-10 from three-point range, 0-of-8 in the first half.

Despite the final score, at halftime, ASU was only down by three, 34-31. Graham led the way with 16 points as there were 15 lead changes in the first half alone. In the first half, the Sun Devils shot 42 percent from the field (22-of-28 from the field), while the Ducks shot 40 percent, (13-of-31 from the field).

For Oregon, the Ducks improved to 28-4 on the season and will advance to the semifinals Friday to face the winner of No. 4 Utah/No. 5 Cal. Oregon junior forward Dillon Brooks, Pac-12 Player of the Year, averaged 16 points per game in season. Brooks scored a team-high 22 points on 7-of-13 shooting from the field.

The Sun Devils only faced the Ducks once this season, losing 71-70 on Feb. 2 in Eugene, Oregon in a game that saw 15 lead changes and 9 ties. ASU kept the ball game close with its ability to only turn the ball over six times on the road, but only had seven assists on 26 made baskets.

Brooks had 27 points on the night, including the Ducks’ final 12 points and the winning jumper with 53 seconds left.

But on Thursday, there was no need for late-game heroics from Brooks as the Ducks pulled away in a dominating fashion. 

ASU was coming off one of its best offensive performances of the season as they shot a season-high 56 percent for the game, including 46 percent (10-22) from three-point range, and shot 88 percent from the free throw line. 

Despite the big win on Wednesday, ASU couldn't sustain its offensive or defensive firepower. The Sun Devils were out rebounded 48 to 29 on a glass, a trend for ASU this season with its lack of length and size down low. Additionally, the Sun Devils were outscored 42 to 18 in points in the paint. 


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