Last night, the ASU men’s basketball team lost to Texas, 87-85. In a hotly contested game, Texas center Cameron Ridley threw up an offensive put-back an instant before the buzzer sounded, giving Texas the victory. ASU actually played excellent defense during that possession, forcing a tough shot from the perimeter. But the ball rebounded in an odd way, falling right to the floor where Ridley was able to scoop it up. Had the rebound taken a more “typical” bounce, the Sun Devils would have had a shot at overtime.
It was a tough break for ASU, who performed brilliantly against a good basketball team. For the most part, the Sun Devils traded baskets with Texas during the first half. However, at one point in the second half, they got down by as many as fourteen points. But Herb Sendek’s squad battled back, actually taking the lead with about 43 seconds remaining. In Texas’ last two possessions, ASU forced the Longhorns to take two bad shots. But they were unable to grab the rebounds, which Texas converted to five points to close the game.
For the Sun Devils, the nucleus of this team stepped up. Jordan Bachynski scored 25 points, making most of his closely contested shots around the basket. Point Guard Jahii Carson scored 19, many of them coming off of grueling drives to the basket or stop and pop pull up jumpers. Carson was especially effective in the second half. Forwards Jermaine Marshall and Jonathan Gilling also contributed to the comeback by getting hot in the last 8 minutes of the game.
Ironically, ASU won the rebound battle against Texas. It’s ironic because ASU has struggled in rebounding all season. Most analysts (including Devils in Detail) would have figured that ASU would win convincingly if they ever out-rebounded an opponent. But they couldn’t grab the last two defensive rebounds, the two that essentially put them away.
The only black mark on the Sun Devil effort last night might be free throws. ASU missed 8. Needless to say, if they were to make half of those, they’d probably be playing tomorrow against Michigan.
In the end, this game may have typified the season for ASU. The Sun Devils are a good team, but not a great team. They have the necessary talent, skill and coaching to play among the elite, but not enough to beat the elite consistently. It’s a shame for ASU fans because Herb Sendek assembled a pretty good squad this season and they just couldn’t figure out how good they could be.
Even though this loss is hard to take, ASU should be proud of their accomplishments this season and especially of their effort last night against Texas. They proved to everybody that they belonged there. They did the ASU nation proud. No doubt that hearts were broken in Tempe last night as many fans were watching on TV. But at least the Devils put their best foot forward and gave themselves and their fans some hope and excitement.
Now, the coaching staff and the returning players need to use this disappointing loss as fuel to prepare for next season.