Latest Team Rankings
Free Text Alerts
|ShopMobileRadio RSSRivals.com Yahoo! Sports|
|College Teams||High Schools|
March 4, 2012Trent Lockett was incredulous.
"That's our first back to back wins?" the junior guard asked nobody in particular during Arizona State's post-game press conference Sunday.
"Yep," junior Carrick Felix confirmed.
"Finally," freshman Jonathan Gilling said.
The Arizona State basketball team no longer has to worry about finishing its season as the only BCS school without consecutive wins after Sunday's outcome. It's only fitting that, after a season of monumental struggles, ASU avoided the undesired accomplishment against in its final regular season game, against its in-state rival.
ASU defeated the Arizona Wildcats, 87-80, Sunday at Wells Fargo Arena in front of 7,864 people, with the majority being Arizona fans. The win improved ASU to 10-20 overall and 6-12 in Pac-12 play. Arizona fell to 21-10 and 12-6 in league play, and hurt its cause for an NCAA tournament at-large bid.
In a game with 22 lead changes played in an arena loud enough that at times officials' whistles couldn't be heard a dozen rows from the court, the Sun Devils played their best ball of the season and even so, their win didn't come easy.
ASU was faced with adversity repeatedly during the seesaw game, and time-and-again the Sun Devils excelled.
Faced with one such moment with 2:05 left in the game and the Sun Devils leading 78-74, junior guard Chris Colvin fouled Arizona senior guard Kyle Fogg on a 3-point attempt.
Fogg made all thee free throws to cut Arizona's deficit to one point, which seemed to be the final in a series of momentum changers that would correct the course of the better of the two teams.
ASU head coach Herb Sendek, however, then took a timeout to draw up a play that ended up as the dagger Arizona State needed to close the game out.
The designed play was ran to success with Gilling hitting a wide open 3-pointer off a Colvin assist with 57 seconds left, helping ASU extend its lead to four points.
"You can't say enough about his courage and poise," Sendek said about Gilling, who made 7 of 8 shots from the field in the game, including 5 of 6 from 3-point range. "Especially that last 3-pointer when Chris came off that ball screen, and he lifted for the throw back, (Gilling) took that shoot in rhythm like he was Larry Bird. He just has a lot of ice water in his veins for a first year player."
ASU would seal the win by going on a 6-3 run, with all of its points coming at the free throws line.
Gilling, who played his first home game against Arizona Sunday, raved about it to reporters afterward.
"It was fun," he said. "I've never tried anything like this. Our fans did a good job of yelling louder than them. I liked it."
Another critical stretch for ASU came at the start of the second half. After Arizona State had a strong showing for most of the first half, Arizona went on an 8-2 run in the last 2:26 of the period and would go into halftime with a 44-38 lead.
Instead of wilting under the pressure, ASU became the aggressor and would go on a 7-0 run at the start of the second half, sharpening its resolve the rest of the way.
"After losing momentum and not executing at the end of the first half, our guys came out and delivered the first blow," Sendek said. "I thought that was a really important stretch of the game for our team psychologically, and then they kept stride the rest of the 20 minute period.
Arizona State didn't seem to have any problems psychologically during the game; in fact, it was quite the contrary. ASU only committed 10 turnovers, with only two coming in the second half, its best ball protection half in the Pac-12 slate.
"We all were focused," ASU junior wing Carrick Felix said. "I think everybody was making the simple play, just doing their jobs."
Another positive for the Sun Devils was their ability to make clutch free throws. ASU went 22 of 24 in the game, with the most important ones coming near the end when it hit 6 of 6 from the line in the final 31 seconds.
"That was huge," Lockett said. "Free throws have plagued us throughout the season, the way we shoot the ball. Today, everybody got to the line with confidence, knocked them down, and that probably won us the game."
Sendek has stressed ball control and free throw shooting the entire season as two areas ASU needed to improve on to be successful.
"We've maintained all along if we can somehow get our turnovers in the neighborhood of 12 or fewer, if we can convert better at the free throw line, that would put us in a much better position to be competitive. This afternoon, both of those things happened."
Felix had 23 for ASU and Fogg 23 for the Wildcats. Gilling and Lockett had 21 points apiece for the Sun Devils.
Lockett had arguably his best game Sunday since spraining his ankle Jan. 14 against Oregon State, if not all season. Not only did he have seven rebounds, five assists and four steals to go along with his point total, but he also had unwavering determination to send the Sun Devils into the win column.
"There were a number of possession where he just almost willed something good for us to happen," Sendek said. "There was a couple of possessions he made something really good out of almost nothing and just overpowered with his will."
Felix, who missed the last two games due to illness, came back strong Sunday against Arizona with a bevy of energy and focus. Along with his team-high point total, Felix also contributed three rebounds, three steals and two assists.
"I just thought his energy today was contagious for our team," Sendek said. "He played to his strengths today, and when he's playing an energy game he's a good player. He really is kind of in his element when he's doing that."
ASU sophomore center Jordan Bachynski also had a solid game, scoring 11 points and adding a career-high six blocks. Also, Sendek complimented the continued growth of Colvin, who had nine assists and two turnovers in 34 minutes of play.
"I though it was a tremendous team effort today," Sendek said. "We could pass around superlatives to everybody who contributes and played this afternoon."
Arizona State's next challenge will be Wednesday in the Pac-12 tournament in Los Angeles, Calif., when they take on Stanford. Felix believes the win against Arizona will be a potential springboard to success for ASU.
"It gives us a lot of momentum, Felix said. "After this one I think a lot of guys' spirits are up, and I think we're ready to go. We have a big opportunity coming up next Wednesday, and we've just got to prepare. We've got another day tomorrow to go in and execute and get ready for our next opponent."