Huskies Oust Devils From Pac-10 Tournament

It was a cruel instance of Déjà vu for ASU at the Staples Center tonight. The Sun Devils dug themselves into a large deficit, mounted a spirited comeback that briefly gave them the lead, and ultimately lost the game by a handful or less points. That has been the team's storyline in its last couple of losses. Washington's 95-90 overtime win wasn't only another painful chapter, but also closed the book on any slim chance ASU may have had to qualify for the NCAA tournament.

ASU (18-13) scored the first two points of the game, only to be subjected to an outpouring of points by Washington (25-5) thereafter. Ten points in just over four minutes by Nate Robinson put the Huskies ahead 17-5 at the 15:57 mark. Lorenzo Romar's team never let up and lead by as much as 18 points at various points during the first stanza. Kevin Kruger's three pointer with just under a minute left sent his team to the locker room trailing 52-37.

Just when you thought that Rob Evans' squad would complete the fold, they came back to turn the laugher into a thriller. Two free throws by Bryson Krueger at the 10:37 mark of the second half finally brought down the deficit into single digits 65-56. Kruger's jumper at the 5:36 mark capped a 16-7 run and gave the game its first tie 72-72. Brandon Roy gave the Huskies an 81-75 edge with 2:24 left in the game, but Steve Moore's back-to-back lay-ups in the last twenty seconds, his last coming with only 0.4 seconds left on the clock, tied the game at 83-83.

Krueger's shot behind the arc awarded ASU its second and last lead of the game 86-85, a minute and twenty-five seconds into overtime. That proved to be ASU's only field goal in the extra frame. Ike Diogu added four points from the charity stripe, but Robinson scored six of Washington's 12 points in the five minute period and helped his teammates avoid the upset.

Kruger and Moore paced ASU with 22 points each. Diogu added 21, and had game highs in both rebounds (13) and blocked shots (5), with the later setting a Pac-10 tournament record. Krueger added 15 points off the bench. While the Sun Devils' free throw percentage was a solid 75%, but their eight missed free throws in all likelihood prevented them from advancing to the conference tournament's second round for the first time since its reinstatement in 2002. Robinson led all players with 29 points.

A team that looses only two seniors naturally has many returning players to supply the foundation for next season. Thus, it would behoove the Sun Devils to have a strong showing in the NIT tournament next week, if nothing else to gain momentum for next year. The opponent and location in the NIT have yet to be announced, but regardless of those details ASU would love nothing more then to break a four-game skid with a victory.

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