Cold shooting from Ty Abbott and Rihards Kuksiks forced others to step up, and Jamelle McMillan's eight points narrowed down the deficit to two points, 23-21, with 7:31 left. The Cardinal were able to give themselves some breathing room at halftime and thanks to late three pointer by Jeremy Green the hosts enjoyed a 35-28 edge after twenty minutes.
By and large, Green and the Pac-10's leading scorer Landry Fields, who led Stanford with 19 points, struggled tonight, especially in the second half. Green was just 2 of 14 from the field and Fields had a nine minute stretch where he didn't even attempt a shot.
Conversely, the Sun Devils made the correct adjustments at halftime. They fed the ball down low to Eric Boateng early and often. As he repeatedly scored he drew more and more coverage and consequently Abbott and Derek Glasser were able to free up for their jump shots.
Stanford switched to a zone defense for several minutes in the second stanza, but that hardly slowed down the visitors. A 13-0 run that lasted nearly seven minutes put ASU ahead for good. Back to back three pointers by Abbott, who had ten points on the night, saw his team lead 56-46 with 6:33 left. Stanford was able to cut the lead to four with 2:34 remaining, but the maroon and gold converted all eight of their free throws in the last 33 seconds to secure the win.
This victory marked the third consecutive 20 or more win season for the Sun Devils, a feat that hasn't been achieved since the 60-61 to 62-63 seasons. The win was also just the sixth time that ASU earned five or more league road victories since joining the Pac-10 32 years ago.
Both teams were nearly identical in their shooting percentages (ASU 44.4 percent, Stanford 43.4) and each had 28 rebounds. The Sun Devils shot very well from the charity stripe, 13 of 16, and committed just five turnovers all recorded in the first half.
All week the ASU players contended that they were not looking ahead to the Cal game, and now with a win to their credit and undoubtedly some confidence they can now fully focus on the first place face-off in Berkeley.
The Bears trounced Arizona earlier tonight 95-71 and will pose an even higher hurdle for ASU to overcome on Saturday at 1 p.m. MT. Then again, what else would you expect from a battle for first place in the Pac-10 with just one week of play left in the season?