Feb. 7, 2013
By Jordan Parry, ASU Media Relations Student Intern
Conference games always have the potential to be tricky, and Thursday night against Cal proved to be no different. The Sun Devils, who led by 16 points at one point, brought it down to the wire, but escaped Wells Fargo Arena with a 66-62 victory over the Golden Bears and an (18-5; 7-3) record.
Evan Gordon became the star of the night, finishing with 23 points on 8-13 shooting and 3-5 from the perimeter. Ruslan Pateev, though, might have been the biggest impact player of the night, providing tremendous effort and energy off the bench. He finished with 12 points on 6-9 shooting, while also notching eight rebounds, five of which were offensive. He played 26 minutes total.
Jahii Carson was the only other Sun Devil in double-digits, recording 12 points, ten of which came in the second half, and four steals. He made 4-5 from the free throw line, too, an important stat for a team that struggles from the charity stripe.
For the night, Cal shot 47 percent to ASU's 46 percent, but the Devils made one more shot than the Golden Bears. Turnovers were a big story for both teams, with Cal committing 18 to Arizona State's 17.
Both teams started the game feeling it from the field, with the score 10-8 in favor of the Sun Devils at the first media timeout. A good sign for ASU came early, as senior leader Carrick Felix hit two buckets in the first 2:30 of play. He was held scoreless in the first half last game against Washington before he finished with a double-double, but ASU needs his presence for an entire game down the stretch of the season if they want to keep its NCAA Tournament hopes alive. He finished the game with eight points.
Jonathan Gilling, who also has struggled shooting for a good portion of the season, hit on a three-pointer out of the timeout, showing signs that his confidence has returned, as well as his jump shot. Despite fighting to find his touch from behind the arc, Gilling has not let that harm other aspects of his game, as he averages seven rebounds per tilt. He grabbed eight boards tonight.
With another three-pointer, this time from Gordon, followed by a baseline hook from Pateev, the Sun Devils were able to double Cal's score, 18-9, with 12:00 to play in the first half.
Arizona State started 7-11 from the floor and used five Golden Bear turnovers to jump out to the early nine-point advantage.
Pateev, who was giving starting center Jordan Bachynski a rest on the bench, then reminded everybody why his 7'0" can be so dangerous, as he slammed through a monstrous dunk in front of the packed student section, bringing them to their feet. Gordon then capitalized on a three-on-two fast break when Carson found him among the collapsing defenders, enabling him to lay the ball in while also collecting the foul. A Felix layup followed, and with 8:16 to play in the first half the Sun Devils held a dominating 25-9 lead, forcing Cal head coach Mike Montgomery to call a timeout to his displeasure.
The Golden Bears committed eight turnovers in just the first 12 minutes of play, aiding ASU to its large first half lead.
Cal responded, however, and used ten straight points of its own to get back within six, thanks in part to a three-pointer from 6'6" guard Allen Crabbe. Crabbe had 12 points at the half to lead Cal scorers. With 5:06 to play Carson picked up his tough second foul, forcing him to the bench. Many times in the past the Sun Devils weakness has been when Carson isn't on the floor, but tonight the Devils showed they could sustain themselves without their on-court leader. Gordon and Gilling hit back-to-back three's, and the lead stretched back to 13, 35-22.
What Pateev did next really started to get the fans of Wells Fargo Arena wondering where this has been all season, as he once again threw down a two-handed power jam, his second of the night.
On the final possession of the half, Pateev blocked a Cal runner in the lane, capping his outstanding first half of play with eight points and two rebounds off 4-7 shooting. The Sun Devils led 37-27 at half.
Gordon led all scorers into the locker room with 13 points on 5-7 shooting, including going 2-2 from deep. ASU and Cal both shot 50 percent in the first 20 minutes of action, but the turnover battle enabled the Sun Devils to fire up eight more shots than the Golden Bears. Cal had ten first half turnovers to ASU's six.
The first shot of the second half came off another Gordon three after a nice baseline drive by Gilling, in which Gordon hit nothing but net, remaining perfect from three up to that point. Two possessions later he missed short from the same spot.
Carson, who finished the first half with only four points on 1-3 shooting, immediately and noticeably became more aggressive at the start of the second half, hitting a layup before sinking two free throws. This has been a trend for Carson, for he has averaged 15 second half points over the past six contests. The talented young phenom was just getting started.
Felix, usually the Sun Devil doing the majority of the dunking, clearly wanted a piece of the fun, as he, too, took off and slammed through his own two-hander of his own.
The Golden Bears continued to fight midway through the second half, but struggled to lessen the lead below nine. With 11:09 to play Arizona State led by 11, 52-41.
Pateev played huge minutes in the second half, as well, making his mark on the offensive boards this time. After tipping out an offensive rebound to Carson, Pateev grabbed one of his own before dishing it to a cutting Gordon for the uncontested layup. The big man was then rewarded for his hustle on the next Sun Devil possession, as Carson found him isolated on the block. Pateev faked baseline then spun towards the middle, raining in another jump hook.
Pateev refused to quit there, sending fans into frenzy as he tipped out another offensive rebound. Rinse, lather, and repeat, he again got open underneath the basket, putting in another easy layup, arousing the crowd to their feet in simultaneous chants of "Ruuuuus". The Sun Devils and Pateev led 60-45 with 7:51 to play.
As all teams do at some point, Cal made a run, and it was up to ASU to fend it off. Cal got to within six points, 60-54, with five minutes to play.
The lead remained six as the two teams traded baskets, but then missed basket after basket. With 1:22 to play Arizona State held a 62-56 edge, the ball in the hands of the Golden Bears with an opportunity to make it a one possession game.
They did exactly that. Just nine seconds into the shot clock, Justin Cobbs hit a three from the elbow, and ASU's steady lead they had maintained throughout shrunk to three.
The Sun Devils struggled to find quality looks at the basket in the final minutes, so when Gordon got a steal with 40 seconds to play and got fouled, a trip to the free throw line was more than welcomed. He sunk both, and the lead was five.
Evidently Arizona State has a knack for nail biters. With 22.9 seconds left, Cobbs again hit another three, this time from the top of the key, trimming the lead to two. Off the inbound, Gordon was purposely fouled and sent to the line, where he made the first and missed the second.
With 9.9 seconds to go, though, and before they could even get up a shot, Crabbe turned the ball over, essentially icing the game and another Sun Devil victory. Gilling missed his first free throw but then got his second to drop, extending the lead to four with 4.5 seconds to play.
Crabbe put up a three that went begging at the buzzer, and the Sun Devils escaped with the victory, 66-62.
Arizona State will be back in action on Saturday night, as they face Stanford for a slated 5:00 p.m. (MT) tilt from Wells Fargo Arena in Tempe, Ariz.