Feb. 14, 2008
TEMPE, Ariz. --
By Matt Storey, ASU Media Relations
The ASU men's basketball team is showing a penchant for unlikely comebacks.
Four days after overcoming a 16-point first-half deficit to beat Arizona, the Sun Devils rallied from 14 down with just under eight minutes left in the second half to defeat No. 7 Stanford 72-68 in overtime Thursday night.
"It's just remarkable that this team somehow found a way to land on their feet tonight," head coach Herb Sendek said of his team's comeback win.
The victory is their second against a ranked opponent this season, having beaten No. 17 Xavier 77-55 Dec. 15, and this is the highest-ranked team ASU has beaten since No. 4 Stanford in 1998.
"We're starting to figure out our identity, and we're getting it done on defense," junior forward Jeff Pendergraph said. "Stanford, they're a really good team. So that speaks volumes for the heart that we have."
Freshman guard James Harden led the way with 23 points. He had the last four points of regulation to force overtime, and then he scored the first eight of the extra session after Pendergraph and freshman forward Rihards Kuksiks both fouled out.
"I think he loves it," Pendergraph said of Harden's play late in the game. "He likes pressure. Whenever the heat is on, he's ready to go. He wants the ball in his hands."
Pendergraph had 15 points and 12 rebounds in the win, while Kuksiks had his best game yet in a Sun Devil uniform with 15 points, including 10 in the second half.
"We've been looking for another guy to come along and help us," Sendek said of Kuksiks. "As he gains experience and continues to work hard, I expect that he'll continue to help us."
Stanford was led by the Lopez twins, who combined for 46 points and 14 rebounds. Brook had 30 points on 10-17 shooting, while Robin scored 16, with 13 of those coming after halftime, on 5-9 shooting.
Yet, ASU was able to limit them to just five points total in the overtime, despite Pendergraph fouling out near the end of regulation.
The Sun Devils jumped out to a quick start, scoring the game's first seven points and never trailing in the first half. They extended the lead as high as 10 on two different occasions, and it was never less than four.
After the Cardinal got within two on Brook Lopez's two free throws to open the second half, ASU answered with an 8-0 run to take a 35-25 lead with 16:52 remaining.
But that is when Stanford began an amazing 26-2 run to seemingly take control of the game. The Lopez brothers led the way, combining to score the team's first 18 points of the second half, and the Cardinal led 51-37 with 7:59 to play.
"We hadn't played well all second half, so we just tried to get some momentum, get a couple of baskets and a couple of stops," Harden said of the team's mindset at that point. "Our guys took that to heart, stepped up and made big plays."
The Sun Devils slowly began to claw back in the game, and a 3-pointer by Kuksiks with 1:40 left cut Stanford's lead to four. Then, freshman guard Ty Abbott made a clutch 3-pointer with 34 seconds left to cut the lead to two. It was Abbott's only made field goal of the game.
"A lot of the guys wouldn't have the constitution to do that," Sendek said of Abbott's shot. "On a night when you're in the groove, maybe that shot is easier. He wasn't. That just shows you something about the edge he has and his mental constitution."
Robin Lopez then missed one of two free throws, and Harden's dunk made it a one-point game with 16 seconds left. Brook Lopez then did the same as his brother, and Harden drove down the court, got his own rebound and made a contested lay-up with five seconds remaining to tie the game at 60 and force overtime.
With Pendergraph having fouled out in regulation and Kuksiks fouling out on Stanford's first possession of overtime, Harden took over offensively and scored the team's first eight points in the extra frame.
ASU led 68-65 with just under a minute to play in overtime when sophomore center Eric Boateng had probably his biggest play of the season, grabbing a long offensive rebound to give his team another possession.
Sophomore guard Derek Glasser made one of two free throws on that possession, but Stanford guard Mitch Johnson then hit a 3-pointer to make it a one-point game with 32 seconds left.
Glasser then made two free throws at the other end, and Stanford missed a potential game-tying 3-point attempt with five seconds left. Boateng grabbed the rebound, and then made one of two free throws to seal the victory.
"You sit there for such a long time, and then all of a sudden you're thrown into the pressure cooker of overtime," Sendek said of Boateng's performance. "To respond the way he did was fantastic for us."
The Sun Devils return to action Saturday when they host California at 4 p.m.