Cold spells down the stretch of both halves kept ASU basketball in rocky spots Thursday night as they fell to the Oregon Ducks in their Pac-12 home opener.
With 6:13 to go in their conference home opener, the Sun Devils were in trouble.
Down five points, Tra Holder held the ball at the top of the key. 10 seconds were left on the shot clock. Holder eyed his defender Payton Pritchard, patiently waiting to make his move. When he saw the opening, he dribbled right, activated his signature hesitation dribble and drove all the way to meet Roman Sorkin at the rim.
The crowd was electric. Things seemed to be back under control, as the inaudible atmosphere at Wells Fargo Arena braced itself for one of the Sun Devils’ signature second runs. All it needed was Holder to knock in the free throw shot.
Except, like too many of the Sun Devil shot attempts in the second half, it didn’t find the bottom of the net.
“It was choppy,” said coach Bobby Hurley of the loss. “We never really got into a great rhythm on offense.
The Sun Devils held a 12-point lead with 2:53 left in the first half, a moment where the thrilling atmosphere of college hoops in Tempe seemed to hold its peak.
They were nailing bombs from three-point land. The crowd made the court inaudible. With James Harden in attendance, Shannon Evans performed the “cooking” motion after a made three-pointer. Things were fun, and nobody in attendance wanted it to end.
Until it did.
The Ducks went on a 14-2 run over the closing minutes of the first half, where exhilaration turned quickly to deflation. Elijah Brown capped off the Oregon burst with a deep three-pointer to beat the buzzer, and the rowdy Sun Devil crowd quickly fell in silent disbelief.
A turnaround as drastic would typically surface confusion and shock. The Sun Devils haven’t looked back this season when they’ve taken big leads.
Except, tonight’s answer to the madness was quite simple: Oregon continued to hold out lengthy possessions on offense while ASU let their shots fly too quickly.
“It was the backboard,” said Kodi Justice about the late run. “They grinded us up on defense, [and] that was hard for us to keep competing.”
“We had opportunities to take hold of the game,” Hurley added. “We quick shot them and allowed them to close the gap.
After converting 16 of their 20 free throw attempts in the first half, the Sun Devils struggled to take care of business in the second half. As a team, they shot 6-11 from the line, while Tra Holder, Shannon Evans and Kodi Justice all missed key free throws with the game within two possessions.
“If you’re not playing at your best offensively, you’ve got to make free throws down the stretch,” Hurley said. “We got our work cut out for us, [and] we have to find ourselves again.”
With the loss, the Sun Devils fall to 13-3 on the overall season and 1-3 in Pac-12 play.
ASU will now prepare to take on a scrappy Oregon State squad, one that took down these same Ducks by double-digits in Corvallis last week.
For coach Hurley, he knows his team will have to resolve some key issues not only for themselves, but the crowd they’re playing for as well.
“We have to make each other better. I don’t know if we’re making each other better on offense right now. We had some good examples of ball movement in the first half, and not so much in the second half. [We need] more production across the board.”
“We have to take advantage of how enthusiastic people are to watch us play. We got to make people want to come back. That’s why it’s part of the disappointment. We just got to get back to work and start playing a little better.”
All quotes in this article were obtained firsthand by Devils in Detail unless otherwise noted.