Resilient Devils punch ticket to New York

When previewing this year's ASU's team it was clear that it had an offense which would have to scrape and battle every game and that its defense will often have to carry them to victories. Tonight's 52-49 win over TCU was a microcosm of that forecast. The Sun Devils used a 12-1 run in the last 3:54 of the game to advance to NIT semifinals and a meeting with Duke at Madison Square Garden.

"Tremendous gut check win for our team tonight," said Arizona State Head Coach Herb Sendek. "Nothing fancy about it. Just a lot of blood and guts. Obviously the game could have gone either way, TCU fought just as hard and battled and we were fortunate that it went our way."

It was only fitting that former Blue Devil, Eric Boateng, would have a career night in a win that will now pit him against the team whom he transferred from three years ago. The senior had 21 points (9 of 11 shooting) and 12 boards (seven of them on the offensive end), and helped the Sun Devils (3-0) to a 21-13 lead with 4:12 left in the first half.

TCU (2-1) wasn't rattled, hunkered down defensively and got to the basket with relative ease in the waning moments of the first stanza as they had a 10-3 run to go down to the locker room down just a point.

That momentum served the Horned Frogs well in the second half, as they broke a 35-35 tie just under midway through the period and built a 48-40 lead. Rihards Kuksiks, who had 12 points, ignited the comeback with a three-pointer, and later took a charge which was one of four TCU turnovers during the Devils' 12-1 run.

Ty Abbott with the running jumper, his only basket in the second half, gave the hosts a 50-49 edge with just 21 seconds left in the game. TCU's Ronnie Moss who was a thorn in ASU's side all night, missed a three pointer and fouled Derek Glasser who sank in his two free throws, his only two points of the night, to seal the game's fate.

ASU shot 42.6 percent from the field but just 3 of 13 beyond the arc. One key for the Sun Devils' win was having a 37-27 advantage of the glass including 16 offensive rebounds. Freshman Trent Lockett, in his first career start, had 11 caroms.

The maroon and gold struggled from the line, converting only 56.3 percent of their free throws. Conversely, in their aforementioned late game run they made 6 of 7 from the charity stripe. "Great win for our team," Sendek said. "I was just so proud of the way they battled. They battled so hard and to me that's what it's all about. I know we have to get a lot better. Our defense allowed us to stay around when offensively it was challenging for us.

"It wasn't perfect, it wasn't elegant - just a lot of heart. You gotta love that. That's easy to cheer for."


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