Loss to Ducks Sets Up Vital Game vs. Beavers

If ASU is to qualify for the NCAA tournament, they will have to make history in the process. The Sun Devils' 67-61 loss to Oregon forces the maroon and gold to now win in Corvallis which would make Oregon State the only Pac-10 team to ever go winless in conference play. Judging by tonight's display in Eugene, suffice to say that the outcome of Saturday's game is far from certain.

Arizona State (18-11, 8-9 Pac-10) found their shooting touch early in the game. Two baskets beyond the arc by Ty Abbott put the visitors ahead 16-13 at the 12:52 mark. A 14-3 run by Oregon (17-12, 8-9) gave the Ducks a 27-19 advantage with 8:18 left in the half.

Eric Boateng came off the bench and in part thanks to his four points the hosts weren't able to expand on their lead, as the contest was tied at 30 apiece at the 2:42 mark. The halftime score was 33-32 in favor of Oregon and even though ASU was streaky in the first twenty minutes there still was a strong belief that they could pull off the upset.

The first five minutes of the second half have been often unkind for the Devils, and tonight in Eugene was no exception. Oregon went on a 7-0 and ASU was scoreless for nearly four minutes until a Jeff Pendergraph ended the drought. A dunk by the junior had ASU trailing 45-41 at the 13:44 mark; however another bad offensive stretch, that lasted over five minutes, saw the Ducks go on another 7-0 run to grab their first double digit lead on the night, 52-41 midway through the second half.

Ten straight points by James Harden brought down the deficit to 61-58 with 44 seconds left in the game but that as close as the Devils would get tonight. The Ducks converted their last eight free throws and kept their own March Madness aspirations alive.

Harden led all players with 22 points and was 3-5 from three-point territory. He also had a team high in rebounds (six) and tied a team high in assist (six). Pendergraph was perfect from the field (5-5) and scored ten points, while Rihards Kuksiks had ten points as well. Malik Hairston paced Oregon with 19 points. ASU shot 46.2% from the field and went to the line just seven times compared to Oregon's 23 trips to the charity stripe. The hosts were 10-23 from beyond the arc.

You can start uttering all the "do or die" clichés and the like and by doing so you won't even remotely overdramatize ASU's regular season finale against Oregon State Saturday at 3:30 pm MT. The Sun Devils will have to once again dig deep into their resiliency tank to come away victorious against a Beavers team who will strive not be the answer to an embarrassing trivia question.

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