Buzzer-beater breaks Devils' hearts

Climbing back from 14 down in the second half to take the lead twice in the final minutes, 10th-seed Arizona State stood stunned when Texas center Cameron Ridley put back an offensive rebound at the buzzer, giving the seventh-seed Longhorns an 84-82 victory Thursday night.

MILWAUKEE - A different bounce – that's what could have given Arizona State a chance to move on to the next round of the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2009.

But just as it has all season, the rebound went to the opposition in the form of a sophomore center Cameron Ridley's buzzer-beating layup, a shot that sparked a celebration for seventh-seed Texas and caused the members of Arizona State's bench to crumple to the floor in heart-breaking fashion following the 87-85 defeat at the Bradley Center Thursday night.

The mad scramble for the rebound came off a deep, contested 3-pointer by Jonathan Holmes that missed long, but took a funny bounce that senior Jordan Bachynski didn't expect.

"It's a tough one," said Bachynski, who led all scorers with 25 points. "It's a tough way to end the game, a tough way to end my career. Most rebounds come off long, so I was playing for that. My man read the ball better than I did and he got the rebound and the bucket."

Leading up to that point, the Sun Devils (21-12) were on a mission. ASU overcame leads of 8, 9 and 14 in the game, but were not able to put runs together to build a big lead of its own.

But after taking an 83-82 lead, ASU's first since the 2:20 mark in the first half, off an emphatic Bachynski dunk, things looked to be falling the Devils' way.

To get to that point, the Sun Devils pulled themselves together with just over 12 minutes to play to go on a 14-5 run to pull ASU's deficit down to 66-61.

Jon Gilling, who has been a strong scorer off the bench all season, scored 12 of his 15 points in the second half, and none were bigger than the two free throws to knot the game up at 85 with 17 seconds to play.

"We were confident in our teammate, Jon Gilling, was going to knock down two free throws that he made and we knew it was going to come down to one stop," sophomore guard Jahii Carson said. "Rebounding has basically been our achilles the whole season, but I thought we rebounded pretty well the whole game. Coming down to March, pretty much every game is decided by one possession and that one possession didn't fall our way."

In its first NCAA tournament game since 2009, Arizona State was matched up with a team similar to itself. Both teams boasted an up-tempo style, and showed it by starting out red hot from the floor.

Texas (24-10) had the upper hand at halftime after shooting 16-for-27 from the floor, including six straight field goals to start the game. Arizona State made just two fewer shots, but was playing the Longhorns tough in the post and on the perimeter, shooting 14-for-27 from the field in the first half.

"Well I think you had two up-tempo, fast-breaking teams going against each other," said Sun Devils coach Herb Sendek. "Even early on, I know our defense could've been better, but both teams were making shots. Even sometimes if you have a defensive lapse or breakdown, they let you off the hook and miss the shot. You've got to credit both teams with really shooting the basketball very well. Guys made shots and sometimes they made challenged shots."

Both teams combined to shoot 114 field goals, including 60 free throw attempts.

The Devils problems weren't on the glass, as they have been throughout the season, but in transition that led to a 14-4 deficit on the fast-break.

"We didn't do a real good job of getting matched up in a couple instances," Sendek said. "They took advantage of some of our early turnovers and I thought the transition game that Texas had, especially in the first half, was as significant as anything."

The transition game could have been affected by the attention that was given to shut down the interior presence of Ridley (17 points) and Jonathan Holmes (11 points). In the second half Arizona State played better defense, holding Texas to just four more fast break points.

Paying more attention to Ridley and Holmes allowed the Longhorns to get other players involved, like Demarcus Holland and Javan Felix, who finished 14 and 11 points respectively.

"Well, Ridley does command a lot of attention and sometimes even if you're not attracting a second defender, he's really impressive young core player," Sendek said. "Likewise, the bookend Jonathan Holmes, those are good players. They have a good team. It's not like we were unaware of their talents, but sometimes Ridley does draw an extra defender, more attention."

In the first half, Bachynski and Shaquille McKissic held their own, holding the Longhorns' duo to just six points and two rebounds. The Sun Devils outrebounded the Longhorns, 32-30 in the game, including an 11-10 edge on the offensive glass, but two near the end hurt the most.

"We got them to take two pretty tough shots and they resulted in five Texas points," Sendek said of Holmes' offensive rebound that led to a 3-point play and the Ridley buzzer-beater. That's a tough swallow."

Although Arizona State ended with four consecutive losses and five of their final seven after beating No.2 Arizona in double overtime, Sendek pointed to the progress the program made over the season that sets them up well for next year.

"Obviously I'm really proud of them," he said. "I think our guys had a really good season. Obviously they're going to realize that once the emotion of the moment subsides, but our guys had a really good basketball season. I think our basketball program has a lot of positive momentum and we've made a lot of progress. Ultimately, I'm very proud of our men."

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