The Sun Devils held on late to close out the California Golden Bears 66-62 Thursday night at Wells Fargo Arena.
The Golden Bears trailed the whole game but slowly chipped away at the deficit to make it a 64-62 game with 23 seconds remaining.
However, all hopes of taking the lead were lost after Cal’s leading scorer, Allen Crabbe, turned the ball over in the game’s most crucial possession. ASU forward Jonathan Gilling then went to the line and iced the game with a free throw, helping to capture the Sun Devils’ 18th win.
“You have to start by giving California a lot of credit. They’re a good team, they continued to battle,” head coach Herb Sendek said. “We were hanging on for dear life, but that aside, I think our team played an excellent game.”
The Sun Devils were led by guard Evan Gordon, who finished with 23 points, four rebounds and three assists.
“We’re playing more together as a team. I’m getting the ball and getting shots when we need to. Other players are stepping up and so [Cal’s defense] didn’t have to help on me,” Gordon said.
Center Ruslan Pateev also had a big impact coming off the bench for the Sun Devils, finishing with 12 points, eight boards, and two assists.
“We got a great contribution once again from the ultimate team player, Ruslan. I thought his footwork and his timing in the low post was outstanding,” Sendek said. “To have someone protect the basket defensively, to have someone score offensively, that’s really important.”
The Sun Devils jumped out to a 25-9 lead to start off the game, thanks to some early baskets from Gordon. This set the tempo for the rest of the half going forward. Cal scored six quick baskets to the cut the deficit to seven points, but the Sun Devils responded by hitting big 3-pointers. This gave ASU a 37-27 lead at the half.
In the second half, the Sun Devils again controlled the pace and had a double-digit lead the majority of the time. ASU led 60-45 with 7:51 remaining before Cal began to storm back. Point guard Justin Cobbs tallied eight points in a seven-minute stretch to help chip away at the lead.
The Sun Devils, on the other hand, struggled to get good looks and were unable to respond to Cal’s defensive switch to a zone scheme. However, the comeback was too little, too late for the Golden Bears as ASU was able to close the game out with four late free throws.
Point guard Jahii Carson had a quiet night for the Sun Devils, but did end up scoring 10 critical points in the second half to finish with 12 for the game. For Cal, Crabbe and Wallace both finished with 16 points.
Arizona State will host Stanford (14-9, 5-5 Pac-12) on Saturday at 5:30 p.m.