(Photo courtesy: ASU Athletics)
With seven seconds left in double overtime and Arizona State (19-6, 8-4) down by one point, Jermaine Marshall flew through the air and in what seemed more like a well thought out prayer, rolled the ball off his fingers and through the hoop.
Two seconds later No. 2 Arizona’s (20-2, 10-2) attempt at propelling the game into a third overtime met Jordan Bachynski’s hand in a block that sent the ball soaring right into the hands of Jahii Carson who slammed the ball home emphatically.
Seven tenths of a second remained on the clock as students rushed the court early however it didn’t make a difference as a 35-foot shot by Arizona guard Nick Johnson rimmed out to give the Sun Devils a 69-66 victory.
“The technical never crossed my mind nor did the .7 tenths and then I just started to feel uneasy because Arizona just wasn’t leaving,” head coach Herb Sendek said.
The Sun Devils held Arizona to 35.9 percent shooting from the field and 25 percent from beyond the arc, which was uncharacteristic for an Arizona team ranked fourth in the conference for field goal percentage.
“Our confidence is so high. Especially with them being No. 2 in the country. I’ve never beaten them. It’s unexplainable man,” Carson said.
Marshall was the master of the momentum in this matchup. He strapped this team on his back early on and carried them to the finish with 29 points.
“Jermaine is just incredible,” Sendek said. “ It seems like the bigger the moment he has an amazing capacity to make a big play. Even when the game’s on the line, he finds a way to make baskets. He has tremendous courage down the homestretch in games.”
Both teams came out of the locker room reeling in the anticipation of the night. The game was close the entire first half with Arizona taking its largest lead of six points halfway through the first frame with a 20-14 lead. They started the game with defense that denied shots, eliciting the low-scoring first half which sent the Wildcats into the locker room with a 26-21 lead.
Coming out for the second half, it was Marshall who was on fire again and got the momentum going for ASU to elicit a 6-0 run in the early going to trim the Wildcat lead to 29-28.
Marshall, Gilling, and Johnson had all picked up three fouls with 6:29 left in regulation. With five minutes left to play the Sun Devils led 47-46 and rest of the game would remain the heart-pounding nail-biter that some predicted.
With one minute to go in regulation and the score at 51-49, ASU took possession after Arizona missed a three. It looked as though the Sun Devils had it in the bag and were going to dribble down the clock and go for a well-executed shot.
Instead, Shaquielle McKissic turned the ball over to Aaron Gordon in a sprawling effort to keep the ball in bounds. Gordon led guard T.J. McConnell with an easy bounce pass and McConnell way able to put one in off the glass to tie the game at 51 with 41.2 seconds left to play.
ASU tried to let the clock tick down as long as they could but an ill-advised pass by Carson led to a air-balled three pointer by Marshall and a shot clock violation. Johnson and center Kaleb Tarczewski both had last second looks for Arizona that missed and sent the game into overtime
McKissic fouled out early in the first extra period. If the Sun Devils were running on overdrive at this point, they didn’t let it show. Their physicality and hustle proved immense throughout the entire game.
The teams went back and forth, never outside of a one-possession lead for either group. The scoring in the first overtime period ended after a series of free throws by Tarczewski to give the Wildcats the 57-56 lead but Bachynski tied the game back up at 57 with 2:03 left and U of A was again unable to capitalize as time wound down and Carson missed a half-court shot to send it to yet another overtime period.
In double overtime, it was the same story, back-and-forth play until Marshall came to the rescue again.
“I was just trying to score as fast as possible. The play was set up for a three, but fortunately I was able to provide,” Marshall said.
That seven tenths of a second was not enough for Arizona, and Wells Fargo Arena exploded into an utter state of jubilation and pride in their Sun Devil team.
Carson had 17 points and six assists on the night while Bachynski added 13 points, eight blocks and seven boards. “No words can describe how we feel right now I mean that’s huge for us,” Bachynski said.
McConnell led the Wildcats with 17 points and five rebounds while Tarczewski and Gordon added 13 points each.
In one simple statement, Sendek summed up the night. “In terms of college basketball, that’s as good as it gets.”
The Sun Devils head east to play Colorado next week on Feb. 19 at 9 p.m. MT.
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