STORRS, Conn. (AP) — Arizona State senior forward Shaq McKissic didn’t want to exit the National Invitation Tournament the same way the Sun Devils were knocked out of the Pac-12 Conference tourney last week.
And if the Sun Devils were going to travel all the way to Connecticut to play the 2014 NCAA champions, he wanted to keep alive the chance of advancing to the finals in New York City.
“Seven days ago, it was a night just like this and a game that was similar,” McKissic said after scoring 22 points to lead Arizona State to a 68-61 first-round victory over the Huskies before 6,045 at Gampel Pavilion. “We got the lead and USC came back to win (67-64). You don’t want to go through that twice.”
UConn senior guard Ryan Boatright, a unanimous first-team All-American Athletic Conference selection, missed the first game of his four-year career due to a left shoulder injury. Boatright, UConn’s leading scorer at 17.4 points per game, was injured in the AAC championship game Sunday against SMU.
Boatright, who helped the Huskies win the 2014 NCAA title, said he likely would have played if UConn (20-15) had been in an NCAA game.
“When I warmed it up this morning in rehab, I still didn’t have the range of motion that I need to be at,” Boatright said. “I decided to sit down and hope that we could pull this out.”
Sophomore forward Savon Goodman scored 14 for the Sun Devils (18-15), who shot 51.9 percent from the field and advanced to the second round at Richmond on Sunday. Sophomore guard Rodney Purvis led UConn with 19 points and Daniel Hamilton added 16.
Arizona State outscored the Huskies 20-7 over the final nine minutes of the first half and led 37-24 at halftime.
“We weren’t playing a lick of defense,” UConn coach Kevin Ollie said. “And you can’t run any offense when you’re not playing good defense.”
The Sun Devils increased their lead to 16 in the first two minutes of the second half, and were up 48-34 before the Huskies went on a 25-11 run to tie the game at 59 on Omar Calhoun’s 3-pointer from the left corner with 2:42 left.
A 3-pointer by McKissic with 2:10 left put Arizona State up for good.
“It’s so important to him that at times you almost feel him willing our team to wins,” ASU coach Herb Sendek said of McKissic. “He made some big baskets down the homestretch and he’s done that time and time again for us this season.”
Arizona State: The Sun Devils had runs of 10-2 and 10-0 in the first half.
UConn: After shooting 34.5 percent in the first half, UConn hit 16 of 28 shots (57.1 percent) in the second half.
Arizona State: Will face Richmond in the NIT second round.
UConn: Season over.
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