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February 15, 2014

Marshall, Sun Devils break No. 2 Wildcats' hearts in 2OT

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Heading into Friday night's contest, Arizona head coach Sean Miller considered Arizona State second-leading scorer Jermaine Marshall an All-Pac-12 Conference performer.

Unfortunately, nobody knows what the Wildcats' players think about the senior transfer after he led the Sun Devils (19-6, 8-4 Pac-12) to a 69-66 double-overtime victory at Wells Fargo Arena. UA players were not made available to reporters after the game.

On this Valentine's Day, the 6-4 guard played the role of heartbreaker.

After Marshall dropped 29 points - including a pair of key 3-pointers and a layup over the final 1:34 in the second extra session - Miller upgraded him to a first-team lock and noted his "two great shots" from the perimeter.

"Jermaine Marshall did an outstanding job," Miller said. "He made three shots in a row - two 3s and a two - eight consecutive points. I give him a lot of credit. He's a phenomenal player.

"The thing that's tough about Marshall, he can not only score behind the arc but he can score inside of it. He's a terrific player. To me, he's a first-team All-Pac-12 player, I'll certainly vote for him."

Marshall - who missed the first meeting of the season with a groin injury - scored 17 of his points after halftime, and his second basket from beyond the arc tied the game at 65 with 55.6 seconds left.

UA freshman Aaron Gordon then split a pair of free throws with 36 seconds remaining - one of 14 missed free throws by the Wildcats (23-2, 10-2 Pac-12). Marshall came back with a tough, go-ahead layup, giving ASU a 67-66 lead with 14.7 seconds to play.

"When it's crunch time, like that, you try to focus in," said Marshall, who made 11 of 23 shots - including 4 of 8 from the 3-point line. "To be a big-time player, you've got to make big-time shots.

"Any time you can beat the second-ranked team in the country, it's huge. Any way you can get one of those, it's great. I think we proved a lot to ourselves and a lot to America tonight."

With five seconds left, T.J. McConnell's drive was blocked by Jordan Bachynski, leading to Jahii Carson's dunk the other way as the fans rushed the court prematurely. After officials reset the clock to 0.7 seconds, Nick Johnson's 35-foot heave was on line but hit the front of the rim, and the Sun Devils fans returned to the floor to celebrate.

It was ASU's sixth victory in its last seven games, and three have come in overtime.

Bachynski, who was held without a made field goal in the season's first meeting, scored 13 points to go with seven rebounds and eight blocks. Carson added 17 points and six assists for ASU, which won despite shooting just 40 percent and 57.7 percent on free throws.

After Marshall's performance, Miller said his own team's 53.3 percent night at the line and 35.9 percent from the field were the biggest difference. Gordon, Johnson and McConnell combined to make just 6 of 16 foul shots.

UA dominated the rebounding battle, 54-35 - including 18-5 on the offensive glass - but received zero points from its bench and turned the ball over 15 times.

"Our offense is continuing to put more and more pressure on our defense," Miller said. "You can only guard so well. We missed a ton of free throws - and, heck, we've missed a ton of free throws all year. But eventually that's going to run its course and we're going to lose because we're leaving too many points on the table."

Trailing by five at the break, ASU quickly made the early portion of the second half a back-and-forth affair. After four lead changes, however, UA went up 35-31 on McConnell's 3-pointer and a Johnson dunk with 14:11 to play.

The Sun Devils answered behind Marshall, whose basket with under 11 minutes left put them in front 39-38. From there, his backcourt partner joined the party.

Carson made just one of his first seven shots to open the contest. But with the game tied at 41, the sophomore scored six consecutive points to give ASU its largest lead. In fact, no team had a lead larger than six all game.

The point guard made six of his last 10 shots to provide Marshall the help needed to complete the upset.

"Nothing I do, as far as missing shots, affects my confidence or affects me taking more shots," said Carson, who finished 7 of 17 from the floor. "I just settled down. I go back to the basics and I start feeding my teammates and getting energy, and that's when my shots start to fall."

The Wildcats had a chance to steal the victory in regulation after McConnell's layup tied the game at 51 inside the final minute. After forcing a shot-clock violation on the next ASU possession with 21.7 seconds left, Gordon airballed an off-balance hook attempt and Johnson did the same while trying to beat the buzzer.

The teams entered the second overtime tied at 57, as both missed opportunities at the foul line.

McConnell led the way for Arizona with 17 points on 7-of-15 shooting but turned the ball over six times. Johnson added 14 but missed 15 of 20 shots, putting him at a combined 25 percent shooting over the last four games.

Gordon and Kaleb Tarczewski chipped in 13 apiece. Tarczewski also pulled down 13 rebounds in what Miller called one of his "best games."

"But the six turnovers really hurt us tonight," Miller added of McConnell's performance. "T.J., obviously, is our quarterback. Taking care of the ball is big and you look at those turnovers, they're kind of like missed free throws. They continue to put more and more pressure against you."

The rematch between the programs started far different than the 14-point first-half cushion Arizona enjoyed in Tucson a month ago.

Both teams opened the contest cold, combining to miss 20 of the game's first 27 shots as ASU owned an 8-7 lead at the midway point of the first half.

Trailing 12-9, the Wildcats then went on an 11-2 run highlighted by three Tarczewski baskets - including a mid-range jump shot to extend the UA advantage to six points with 3:53 left.

The Wildcats maintained most of the advantage and Johnson's layup in the closing seconds gave them a 26-21 halftime lead. Still, Miller said there were missed opportunities.

"I thought in the first half we probably had five or six shots that were the best that we can generate - and we missed all of them," Miller said.

Marshall led all scorers at the half with 12 points on 5-of-10 shooting and carried the load from the start for his teammates, who combined to make just 3 of 17 shots.

Tracy McDannaldTracy McDannald
GOAZCATS.com Senior Editor

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