Devils Show Resiliency in OT Win vs. Stanford

It could have been a cruel Déjà vu for ASU. Just like their first game against Stanford this season, they saw a second half double digit lead evaporate as they trail by a seemingly overwhelming margin. Instead, the 72-68 win was very reminiscent of their comeback victory in Tucson a few days ago. It was perhaps a sign that the Sun Devils continue to rebound from a five game skid that ended Sunday.

"Basketball is a sport of runs," said ASU head coach Herb Sendek. "Tonight that was really they case. We got off to a good start, they went on that run. It seemed like 100 to two to me," he said. "It is remarkable that this team somehow found a way to land on their feet tonight."

The aforementioned runs by both teams were truly impressive and gave the 7,566 in attendance a very entertaining game. Arizona State (16-7, 6-5 Pac-10) opened the game with a 14-4 run and at the 14:30 mark were already enjoying a double digit lead. With 2:56 left in the half seventh-ranked Stanford (20-4, 9-3) is assessed a technical foul when their head coach Trent Johnson was exchanging words with one of the referees, and the Sun Devils were still rolling holding a 27-18 lead. Alas, the visitors hold the hosts scoreless for the rest of the period, and bring down their deficit to 27-23.

The second half opens up much like the opening stanza, as ASU builds another ten point lead, 35-25, at the 16:52 mark. It is at this point that the Sun Devils suffer what probably should have been a game-ending blow. Stanford went on a rampage outscoring ASU 26-2 to hold a 51-37 lead with 7:59 in the game.

It was the St. Valentines Day massacre basketball style, until ASU decided to make the ending of this game sweeter than any of the millions pieces of candy combined that were consumed on this day.

The Sun Devils ended the game with a 23-9 run, and it wasn't free of dramatic baskets. A shot behind the arc by Rihards Kuksiks saw ASU trail 57-53 at the 1:37 mark. In what was the most uplifting basket of the night, the offensively slumping Ty Abbott scores his only points of the night, another ASU three-pointer, and with 33.4 seconds left in the game the Devils are behind by just a bucket 58-56.

ASU sends the Lopez twins to the free throw line in the last thirty seconds of the game and the two centers each make just one out of two shots from the charity stripe. That's all James Harden needed, as his scores on a dunk and lay-up in heavy traffic to send the game into overtime tied at 60 apiece.

With Pendergraph fouling out with 14 seconds left in the regulation and Kuksiks following suit just 12 seconds into the extra frame, it was a given that Harden would have to carry the offensive load with the other main sources of offense on the bench. The freshman once again answered the call and scored the team's first eight points in overtime.

What was improbable, maybe borderline shocking was the contribution of Eric Boateng.

The sophomore who has been struggling in a major way most of the season delivered a great performance. Two crucial rebounds, one on each end of the court, secured precious possessions for ASU. Furthermore, his one made free throw (and only point of the night) with three seconds left in the game was also the last point scored in the contest and one that iced a victory which will register as another quality win on the year.

This was the highest ranked team ASU has beaten since prevailing over a 4th ranked Stanford in 1998 on the road. It was also their highest ranked team win at home since beating a 7th ranked Arizona in 1994.

Harden paced ASU with 23 points and led all players with five assist and five steals. Pendergraph and Kuksiks had 15 points each, with the former having a game high 12 boards. Brook Lopez led all scorers with 30 points, while twin brother Robin Lopez chipped in with 16.

As in the case with any Pac-10 weekend series, not much rest lies ahead for the Sun Devils as they will host a dangerous Cal team Saturday at 4 pm. The Golden Bears dropped an 83-73 decision in Tucson on Thursday and will certainly not want to leave the state of Arizona being swept. Another effort like the one against Stanford should net a win for the maroon and gold as they try not only to pile on more wins but also build a case for an NCAA tournament invitation.

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