(Photo: Scotty Bara/WCSN)
Arizona State returns home looking to redeem itself against Stanford as it enters its final week of Pac-12 play. Following a disappointing four-game losing streak, the Sun Devils have one last shot at finishing their season with some prosperity in their final home series, starting with the Cardinal Thursday night.
Despite ASU’s undermanned team and lackluster performances as of late, its competition has been tough. In its past three games on the road, it faced ranked Arizona and Utah squads along with another NCAA Tournament bound team in Colorado. Thursday’s game against a middle of the road Pac-12 team will feel like a relief.
In the Sun Devils’ first appearance against Stanford, they lost a nail biter 75-73 thanks to a layup by senior forward Rosco Allen with five seconds remaining in the game.
Allen has been Stanford’s best player this season, and has been especially hot as of late averaging 18.8 points per game over his last 10 games. The senior has been finishing games strong in that span averaging 13 points in the second half alone. However, he isn’t the only Cardinal ASU will have to worry about.
To go along with Allen, three other active players are averaging double digits. That includes: Dorian Pickens, Marcus Allen and Michael Humphrey.
Two of those key players, Pickens and Humphrey, are from the Phoenix area and will be looking to impress in front of their friends and family in attendance.
This is a very winnable game for ASU on its home court. A win Thursday night would give the Sun Devils a much-needed boost in their pursuit for the NIT.
Keys to the Game
Take care of the ball
Stanford will be aggressive on defensive, and will take advantage of careless passing and ball handling. The Cardinal are averaging 6.9 steals per game, and leading this charge is junior guard Marcus Allen who is second in the Pac-12 with 1.8 steals per contest.
Presence in the paint
This game will be junior center Eric Jacobsen’s time to shine. The lone big man for ASU has not had the strongest season and has struggled at times against other big men in the conference. This past week he did a solid job of keeping Utah’s star center Jakob Poeltl off the glass, and then had another positive performance Sunday grabbing nine boards against Colorado.
No one on Stanford will pose a big threat to Jacobsen down low, and he will need to take advantage of that. He isn’t known for his scoring abilities, but as long as he crashes the boards he will be able to pick up lots of offensive rebounds and put backs. At 6 feet, 10 inches tall he will be the biggest body on the court.
The same opportunity will also arise for emerging star, junior Obinna Oleka. He has been impressive lately both offensively and on the glass. In his past 13 games he is averaging 12 points per game and has recorded three double doubles. Thursday would be a great opportunity for him to grab number four.