(Photo: Scotty Bara/WCSN)
With 17:51 remaining in the game, Arizona State held a 16-point lead over Connecticut.
With 2:29, the game was tied.
The ghosts of the Pac-12 Tournament loss to the USC Trojans resurfaced, but the Sun Devils put them in their place as they pulled out the win in the first round of the NIT over the defending national champions by a score of 68-61.
ASU senior forward Shaquielle McKissic and sophomore forward Savon Goodman converted back-to-back layups to mute UConn’s comeback hopes.
The game got out to a free-flowing pace with an experimental 30-second shot clock and 4-foot restricted area underneath the basket. ASU’s offense got going early, shooting 50 percent in the first half, led by sophomore guard Gerry Blakes’ 10 points.
UConn struggled on offense the ball without senior guard and leading scorer Ryan Boatright, who missed the game with a shoulder injury he sustained in the American Athletic Conference championship.
The Huskies failed to score over a five-minute stretch in the first half, and trailed the Sun Devils by 13 points after the first 20 minutes of play, but they were led by 18 points from sophomore guard Rodney Purvis.
After they made several pushes in the second half, the Huskies got within one point with under five minutes to go, but Goodman ended a 9-0 UConn run with an offensive putback.
Goodman finished just shy of a double-double, tallying 14 points and nine rebounds.
Player of the Game: Shaquielle McKissic
When ASU’s offense seemed to stall, McKissic was aggressive taking the ball to the hoop, racking up a game-high 22 points and five rebounds. He also provided strong defense on Purvis, who needed 18 shots for 19 points. Over the last four games for ASU, McKissic has averaged over 17 points per game, and almost single-handedly kept ASU’s lead alive.
Biggest Concern: Tra Holder
After several months of strong, somewhat consistent play, the freshman point guard struggled against the Boatright-less Huskies. Holder went just 2-for-9 from the field with four turnovers. Clearly, the Sun Devils got away with him struggling to find his flow on offense in this game, but their NIT bid will only go as far as Holder can take them.
Stat of the Night: 54.5 percent shooting
ASU ended its game against the Trojans shooting 1-for-13. That trend ended on its trip to Connecticut. The Sun Devils played efficiently with the shortened shot clock, and went 7-for-17 from three as well. With the abbreviated shot clock in the NIT, making the most of the increased number of possessions makes for a winning formula.
The Sun Devils will take on the winner of Richmond/St. Francis-NY in the second round of the NIT.
You can reach Zac Pacleb on Twitter @ZacPacleb or via email at email@example.com