Weary Sun Devils fall to top-seeded Oregon in Pac-12 Tournament
LAS VEGAS — A day after an explosive 98-88 overtime win over the Stanford Cardinal, in which five starters played more than 40 minutes, Arizona State simply didn’t have the legs to compete with top-seeded Oregon Thursday at T-Mobile Arena.
The Sun Devils saw their season come to an end, falling 80-57 in the second round of the Pac-12 Tournament.
“We hit a wall in terms of fatigue,” coach Bobby Hurley said.
The Sun Devils had their legs for a half, trailing just 34-31 at the break. But even that was a desert mirage as ASU was almost entirely reliant on the marksmanship of Torian Graham, who accounted for more than half the team’s first half production and finished the game with a career-high 32 points.
After the break, the Ducks took control of the game with a 20-9 run fueled by their defense.
The Sun Devils went more than seven minutes without a bucket. Oregon dominated defensively by switching every screen and allowing 6-foot-9 Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Jordan Bell to corral guards on the perimeter.
“We got into a lot of bad space on offense and they switched a lot,” Hurley said. “When they switched their bigs, we couldn’t make them pay for it, unfortunately, this game.”
Hurley said the fatigue caught up to the Sun Devils. ASU played into overtime against Stanford in their opening-round victory with five players on the floor for at least 34 minutes.
“Some of that could be a physical toll, just not having the gear you need to go by your man off the dribble and create a play,” Hurley said.
Arizona State was the first Pac-12 team in 13 years to have three players average more than 30 minutes a game. Conversely, Oregon had one. Yet the Sun Devils refused to blame the loss on their workload.
“For me, I didn’t feel fatigued,” said junior guard Kodi Justice. “I mean, we’ve played many a games like this where we’ve played 40-plus minutes and bounced back two days later.”
For Arizona State’s seniors, the loss represented a bittersweet end to their careers. Graham had a spectacular run in the second half during which he combined an alley-oop finish and a four point play that helped the Sun Devils cut what had been a 16-point Oregon lead to eight with 7:16 to play.
“He’s one of the toughest shot makers I’ve ever been around,” Justice said of Graham. “I mean, he makes my job easier. “There are so many teams looking out for him, it leaves me wide open. It gives me easy buckets because of how great a scorer he is, how great a player he is.”
Obinna Oleka, coming off a career-best 27 point, 13-rebound performance against Stanford, finished with just six points, hitting one of seven shots from the field.
Despite finishing under .500 for the second year in a row, Hurley said will the season in a positive light.
“I just think for what we were this year and the adversities that we had and whether it’s transfers and academic redshirts and injuries, that these guys sacrificed and gave as much as they could give,” he said.
“I loved coaching them.”