(Photo: Nicole Hernandez)
The Arizona State Sun Devils proved unable to keep a lead against Washington State on Saturday, surrendering a 21-2 run to end the game, concluding with an 86-71 loss to the Cougars.
In a win that secured the sweep for Washington State, the Cougars made seven of their last 10 shots, completely expunging a four-point deficit. After a Torian Graham three made it 69-65 with 7:41 left, WSU went on a 16-0 run to seal the deal. The Devils found themselves outscored 43-22 in the second half.
The loss stings even more for the Devils because, in a surprising turn of events, they managed to somewhat stifle WSU forward Josh Hawkinson. Hawkinson posted 31 points and 10 boards when the Devils hosted the Cougars earlier this season. In Saturday’s game, his scoring was cut down to 14 points, but he had 15 rebounds to boot.
Starting center Conor Clifford and guard Ike Iroegbu drove the comeback for Washington State. Clifford posted 19 points and four rebounds on 9-for-12 shooting, and Iroegbu had 17 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and two steals.
On the flip side, ASU was in high spirits after the first half, going into the break with an 49-43 lead, shooting 53 percent from the floor and 40 percent from deep.
The second half was a much different story. The Cougars 1-2-2 zone defense gave ASU trouble in the first game, and reared its head here as well. Washington State once again was well-coordinated in defending ASU’s scorers. With few open looks coming in the second frame, ASU had to settle for contested shots, which didn’t fall. The Devils shot 10-of-28 in the second frame, including 2-of-14 from deep.
Washington State’s passing, especially down the stretch, was also far more crisp than ASU. The Cougars had 28 assists in the game, quadrupling the seven assists picked up by the Devils. The Cougars also won the rebound battle 42-22, picking up ASUs misses and using the size advantage that has plagued ASU all season.
Shannon Evans led the Devils in scoring with 21 points on 8-of-17 shooting, including 3-of-9 from deep. Tra Holder struggled from the field, putting up only 10 points on 3-of-10 shooting. Kodi Justice also had a rough evening, giving ASU only six points on 3-of-11 from the floor.
The loss is a tough one for ASU (13-14, 6-9 in Pac-12). With brutal opponents like UCLA and Arizona coming up on the home stretch, a win Saturday would have opened the door for ASU to finish with a .500 record. Now they’ll have to return home with two ranked opponents coming to town, starting with UCLA on Thursday.