Evan Gordon’s season has had its ups and downs, but on Thursday evening, he stood tall for ASU basketball.
A junior guard, Gordon scored 23 points on the home court at Wells Fargo Arena, and joined by a hard-fighting Ruslan Pateev, led the Sun Devils to a 66-62 victory against the California Golden Bears.
With the win, ASU improved to 18-5 and 7-3 in the Pac-12, which ties them for second place in the conference.
Gordon’s play has been difficult to predict on a game-by-game basis this year, but against Cal he was a clutch performer — shooting 8 of 13 and contributing four rebounds, three assists and two steals.
Arizona State head coach Herb Sendek was relieved to have Gordon step up at big moments during last night’s game, a contest the Sun Devils dominated until a late run by Cal put the final outcome in doubt.
Sendek said, “We all want to have a great player who can on a given night get a lot of buckets, who can create his own shot, and I don’t mean to diminish the importance of that…but if you can have other guys create balance, you become that much more difficult to defend.”
Pateev also had a strong showing against Cal, contributing 12 points, five offensive rebounds, two assists and three blocked shots in relief of starting center Jordan Bachynski.
The Sun Devils appeared to be in control of the game from the opening tipoff. However, they moved away from their attacking offense (largely due to Cal’s zone defense) in the later stages of the second half in favor of less effective perimeter shots. The Golden Bears capitalized on the situation and pulled to within 64-62 with 24 seconds left.
Fortunately, Gordon and forward Jonathan Gilling both sank free throws to seal the win for ASU.
With five of their final seven Pac-12 games on the road, the Sun Devils face a stiff test in search of their first NCAA Tournament berth since 2009. They meet Stanford on Saturday before traveling to Utah and Colorado.