(Photo: Scotty Bara/WCSN)
In a thrilling start to the Pac-12 tournament, the Arizona State Sun Devils avoided a major collapse, earning a 98-88 overtime victory over the Stanford Cardinal.
The Devils led by as many as 11 points in the second half, but a jump shot by Michael Humphrey in the waning seconds forced OT. ASU, known for its three-point prowess, decided to fire away from behind the arc to secure the win in extra time. The Devils hit three threes en route to a 17-7 overtime period.
It was one of ASU’s most complete games of the season, despite the late falloff. The Devils shot 55 percent from the floor, 45 percent from three and 88 percent from the charity stripe.
Arizona State has had problems throughout the season in the early part of games, starting slow and playing from behind. This time around, the Devils went right to work quickly and didn’t look back. ASU made its first four field goals and started out 9-of-13.
Meanwhile, Stanford’s 4-of-5 start was broken by stout ASU defense. The Devils went on an 8-0 run with Stanford leading 14-13 to take control.
ASU shot 60 percent, 50 percent from deep, and 15-of-17 from the foul line in the first half. Despite an extraordinarily efficient first 20 minutes, the Devils couldn’t put the game away quickly. Cardinal junior forward Reid Travis was the focal point against a smaller ASU team, and his 15 points before the break kept his team in it.
Travis dueled with senior forward Obinna Oleka throughout the afternoon. Oleka finished with a career-high 27 points and 13 rebounds. He had a couple of highlight alley-oops to show for the rim pressure he provided ASU throughout the game.
Oleka took on the entire sizable Cardinal team almost alone, and the results came on the glass. In a major surprise, ASU outrebounded the Cardinals 35-30.
Still, defending Travis, an all-conference first teamer, was a tall task. Travis finished with 23 points on 9-of-11 shooting. Oleka picked up his fourth foul on an and-one from Travis with 5:46 remaining, forcing him to sit, and ASU brought in Andre Adams, who also had four fouls.
ASU had some defensive let-ups, but for much of the game avoided ceding a major run to the Cardinal. Then, the Cardinal broke out a 3-2 zone defense, which has given ASU a headache all season, and Wednesday’s game was no exception. The Devils gave up a 12-2 run and the game was suddenly 76-75 with about five minutes to play.
Junior guard Tra Holder stopped the bleeding for ASU with a pair of layups, giving the Devils the lead at 81-77 with under two minutes left.
A Stanford layup on the other end was met with a too-short three attempt from Holder. With a chance to tie or lead and 21.8 seconds left, Stanford went to work out of a timeout. Despite a well-defended possession by the Devils, Humphrey buried a forced jumper. A heave from Holder on the other end barely rimmed out and the two teams went to extra time.
The Devils and Cardinal are familiar opponents in razor-thin finishes. Earlier in the season, Arizona State ended on a 12-2 run to beat Stanford in Tempe, closing the game on two clutch threes from Torian Graham.
In a game where all the starters scored 15 or more points, each one hit a shot to give ASU a 13-3 run in overtime. Threes from Torian Graham, Kodi Justice and Shannon Evans, along with some strong zone defense from ASU, crushed Stanford’s hopes of completing the comeback.
The overtime may have long-term consequences for the Devils. They’ll play conference-leading Oregon on Thursday afternoon, giving the shallow Devils team little time to rest up.