LAS VEGAS — It was the same old story for Arizona State in a brutal 79-58 whooping at the hands of Johnny Dawkins’ Stanford Cardinal.
ASU (21-11) got off to a terrible start, trailed wire-to-wire and failed to shoot the ball effectively while competing away from Wells Fargo Arena.
“It all started from the first possession where we had the ball two feet from the basket and didn’t score,” said head coach Herb Sendek.
This time, it came during the team’s opening postseason game in front of lingering Arizona Wildcats’ fans who had stayed to soak in some more of the tournament.
On multiple occasions, Wildcats fans who were still celebrating from their victory earlier in the day over Utah took center stage with “U-of-A” chants that drowned out the entire crowd.
Stanford (21-11) took a 9-0 lead five minutes into the game and controlled most of the first half.
Herb Sendek’s squad closed the gap to 30-27 by halftime, thanks to Bo Barnes and Jonathan Gilling — both of whom came off the bench and sank a combined five three-pointers.
This effort temporarily bailed out starters Jahii Carson and Jermaine Marshall, who were shut out in the first half, going a combined 0-for-8 from the floor.
“They do a good job with their defense with their length and size,” Sendek said about Stanford’s ability to shut down their top guards.
“We were having a tough time guarding (Dwight) Powell on the perimeter, so we tried to go smaller, but that didn’t work.”
The Cardinal’s Dwight Powell shot 6-for-8 from the field and finished with 15 points. Meanwhile, teammate Chasson Randle led all scorers with 21 points to complement his four assists and two steals.
Stanford kept their cool in the second half and established a 51-38 lead with 11:38 remaining.
The Cardinal used a redundant array of flashy dunks and layups to shoot 71 percent in the second half — extracting all the morale out of the Sun Devils, who have now dropped three straight.
“We just have to press reset and look forward,” Gilling said after the game. “We can’t stress and get down on ourselves. It’s a losing streak. Things happen. You just have to be positive about the future.”
The Danish junior forward led all ASU scorers with 13 on the night.
Barnes and Shaquielle McKissic contributed 12 — each proving worthy of an uptick in floor time. Carson was the other Sun Devil to finish in double figures with 10, pouring in most of his scoring over the final five minutes of the contest. Prior to that, he struggled to find space down low, getting blocked on three occasions.
It was nice to see ASU’s bench contribute, and tonight they needed every point they could get with their starters struggling to convert in the first half. Barnes sparked the late-first-half offense with two stellar backdoor cuts for layups, also sinking a pair of three-pointers to keep the game within reach.
The defense in the second half ensured their would be no comeback for ASU. Stanford brought the crowd to its feet with well-executed offensive sets ending in highlight dunks and uncontested layups. Allowing an opponent to shoot 71 percent is not acceptable for any defense in a matter of 20 minutes.
He Said It:
“They came up with more energy. They played freely. They weren’t worried about anything. They made plays and we didn’t. When a team has great shooters and bigs, they’re going to punish us when we don’t have great energy and effort.” – Jonathan Gilling
If the NCAA Selection Committee sees it fitting, the Sun Devils will back their way into the NCAA Tournament for only the second time in Herb Sendek’s eight seasons as head coach.