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ASU Men’s Basketball: Despite strong efforts from McKissic and Holder, Sun Devils cannot overcome poor free throw shooting against Oregon

(Photo: Scotty Bara/WCSN)

Despite a barrage of late-game fireworks, Arizona State could not overcome poor free-throw shooting and fell to the Oregon Ducks, 68-67.

With ASU trailing 60-57, senior forward McKissic knocked down a pull-up three to tie the game with 1.2 seconds remaining to force an extra five minutes. McKissic admitted after the game that he was feeling nauseous throughout the second half, but that did not stop him from posting a game-high 24 points and five rebounds while going 6-for-10 from beyond the arc.

“That was our game to win,” McKissic said. “We just got to play all 40 minutes.”

In overtime, Oregon’s free throw shooting helped the Ducks bounce to a 66-62 lead before senior forward Jonathan Gilling sank his first three of the game. McKissic blocked a shot on the ensuing possession and followed with a layup on the other end.

Oregon senior guard Joseph Young answered with a mid-range jumper with 25.6 seconds remaining. Despite struggling for most of the game, Young finished with 14 points and seven assists.

Chaos and sloppy play plagued ASU’s final possession, which ended with a rushed attempted three from Bo Barnes that had little-to-no hope.

“Young is a helluva player,” ASU head coach Herb Sendek said. “He’s a big-time player. You put yourself, maybe not in that position, if you make free-throws. I don’t know how else to slice it.”

In a game where ASU dominated in most aspects, the struggles from the free throw line was an obstacle that the Sun Devils could not overcome. ASU went 7-for-15 from the stripe while the Ducks went 12-for-14, including a perfect 6-for-6 in overtime.

Barnes and senior forward Jonathan Gilling were relatively quiet tonight, combining for just five points on 2-for-12 shooting as well as just 1-for-9 from distance.

“I felt like Bo had a good look,” McKissic said. “I don’t think he knew how much time he had to really adjust it. It was quick. Nobody knew – I thought he was still going to make it.”

The first half consisted mostly of teams trying to adjust to early foul trouble as Oregon’s freshman forward Jordan Bell committed two early fouls, while ASU’s junior center Eric Jacobsen and sophomore forward Savon Goodman had two fouls each.

Oregon was the better team after the initial 20 minutes as ASU struggled with interior defense and turnovers. At the half, Oregon was plus-10 in points in the paint and had tallied 15 points off of ASU’s nine turnovers compared with zero for the Sun Devils.

The Ducks rode the first half performance of junior forward Elgin Cook’s 10 points to take a 34-29 lead into the locker room. Cook finished the game with a team-high 23 points and six rebounds.

“We can’t start games off like that and expect to go back to the tournament,” McKissic said.

McKissic came out of the break on fire, knocking in a trio of consecutive three-pointers to spark his team, but freshman point guard Tra Holder stole the show, knocking down a mid-range jumper at the end of the shot clock with 3:41 to go to give ASU the 56-55 lead.

Holder added to a string of strong performances over the last two weeks and looked the part of a starting Pac-12 point guard, knifing his way in and out of Oregon’s defense on his way to 16 points, four rebounds and three assists in 42 minutes of play.

The game consisted of a myriad of strange anomalies and highlights, including Elgin Cook’s fourth career three-pointer to spark Oregon late in the game and the poor shooting from Barnes and Gilling. However, one of the more positive takeaways from this game for the Sun Devils has to be the play of Holder.

“He has the heart of a lion,” McKissic said. “I can count on him to find the right person to pass the ball to. He’s just grown so much.”

The loss drops ASU to 11-11 on the season and 3-5 in the Pac-12. But after an 0-4 start to the conference season, the Sun Devils seem to have found a little bit of stride as of late–something that has to continue when they welcome No. 6 Arizona to Tempe on February 7.

“We’ve gotten better,” Sendek said. “We’ve lost some tough games. Record-wise, obviously, we’d rather be in a better spot than we are, but you are what you are.”

You can reach Zac Pacleb on Twitter @ZacPacleb or via email at


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