The most emotional night of the season ended on a positive note for the most impressive class of seniors the Sun Devils have had in a while, as they capped off a remarkable 16-1 home record on the season with a 78-60 defeat of the Cal Bears.
From the start, it appeared that the adrenaline had taken hold of the squad and paralyzed them, rather than kick them into gear. Jordan Bachynski struggled early and once again found himself in foul trouble, sitting half of the first frame and watching his teammates unable to find the bottom of the basket.
At the half, the Devils remarkably had a 29-24 lead, despite having zero points from Bachynski (who broke his own single-season shots blocked record in the game’s first few minutes) and four from Carson, as the team struggled once again with open looks.
Not wanting their final game of the season to be like the nail biters of the past, the shooting barrage was unleashed in the second half.
Jermaine Marshall proved once again that he is going to be the definitive factor in how far ASU will go in the NCAA Tournament, as he drilled six of his eight three pointers, for a game-high 22 points.
Shockingly enough, Marshall may not have been the player of the game. That honor goes to a man who will indeed have all of next season to continue to shine on the court at Wells Fargo Arena, Jon Gilling. The “Danish Dandy” had a career night, starting off going a blazing six-for-six from the floor giving him 15 points. Couple that with his five rebounds and four assists, and the spark plug off the bench for the Sun Devils helped them cruise to victory in what was a vital game for their NCAA Tournament hopes.
After the final buzzer sounded, much was speculated about whether this was really the last time Jahii Carson would ever take the floor at home in Tempe. It was all but confirmed by not only Coach Sendek, but also Jahii himself, that he is NBA bound. The sophomore from Mesa has contributed an unbelievable amount in his short time on campus, helping to bring prominence back to a proud program.
After a convincing win such as this, the Sun Devils once must again check their ego at the door as they hit the road for their final trip of the regular season. Wrapping up with Oregon on Tuesday and Oregon State Saturday night, ASU has the chance to finish with an impressive 23 wins overall, 13 of which would be in conference, giving them prime position come the PAC-12 Tournament.
For hypothetical purposes, should the Sun Devils win their next three games (the two in Oregon, then their opening game of the PAC-12 Tourney), would a #7 seed in the field of 68 be inconceivable? Barring a heroic, Jim Valvano-like run from this team, they will be slotted anywhere from #7-10, meaning they will be playing a virtual toss up game before being fed to the wolves in the “third” round.
Maybe more important than any seeding or match-up, ASU needs to be concerned with channeling the lightning in a bottle they seemed to have caught tonight with immense contributions off the bench from Bo Barnes and Jon Gilling. Depth has plagued the Sun Devils all year, but for a team with a ton of veteran leadership, a run in March may not be too far off on the horizon.
It all continues late Tuesday night in the House that Phil Knight built, up in Eugene, Oregon. A virtual “must win” game for the Oregon Ducks (20-8, 8-8) ahead of the Arizona Wildcats coming to town takes place at 9 P.M. Tuesday and will be aired nationally on Fox Sports 1. Tune in to see if the Sun Devils can keep the good times rolling and nearly clinch a guaranteed berth in the NCAA Tournament.