ASU Basketball vs. Washington State Preview

Evan Gordon rises for the game-winner against the Buffs. - Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

After a buzzer-beater kept the Sun Devils' NCAA Tournament hopes alive, they will need to follow it up with a pair of victories in their final two home games this weekend. The grind continues on Wednesday night against Washington State.

On Wednesday night, Coach Herb Sendek's team will make its first attempt at trying to secure win No. 20.

Though the Sun Devils weren't expected to contend for anything more than a few upset victories this season, the Arizona State squad has continued to turn heads throughout the season.

Saturday night's thrilling overtime victory over Colorado was just another example.

After dropping a must-win game against the Utah Utes last Wednesday, the Sun Devils needed a victory to keep their NCAA Tournament hopes alive.

With five seconds left and the ball in the hands of playmaker Jahii Carson, Coach Herb Sendek appeared ready to put his faith in the freshman sensation.

Not surprisingly, the Colorado Buffaloes knew what was coming. Defenders stepped up on Carson and denied his path to the hoop, forcing him to surrender the ball.

Carson passed to shooting guard Evan Gordon, who began an improbable drive to the rim. Gordon muscled his way through a thick coating of Buffalo defenders before somehow releasing a lay up at an improbable angle that sank through the nylon and allowed the Sun Devils to mob their savior.

Gordon's heroics put the maroon and gold back on the NCAA Tournament bubble, a place where Sun Devil fans believe their team should stay.

Prior to the season, few fans would have predicted success for the Arizona State basketball team. 20 losses seemed a whole lot more likely than 20 wins.

Now that the team has proved it can contend, the fans won't accept anything less than a tournament berth.

If the past few games are any indication, the Sun Devils will need to take things one game at a time.

State of the Sun Devils: After Wednesday's loss to Utah, the Arizona State players were practically inconsolable. In all likelihood, the team believed that the loss ruined its chances of reaching the NCAA Tournament.

Despite the discouraging outcome, coach Herb Sendek rallied his players and decided that one bad loss wouldn't be the downfall of these Sun Devils.

Coach Sendek has talked about the character of his team throughout the season, and Saturday night's game was a testament to his words.

The 63-62 win over Colorado was much needed, and so was the return to prominence of Jahii Carson. After tailing off over the past few games, Carson returned with a vengeance and scored 18 points while dishing out four assists.

His normal backcourt mate, Evan Gordon, did not even start the game as Coach Sendek elected to go with senior Chris Colvin. While Colvin did not produce on the offensive end, Gordon came off the bench on a mission.

The shooting guard scored 14 points on 5-10 shooting, but saved his best for last.

With the Sun Devils trailing and their hopes hanging by a thread, Gordon hit the game-winner to shock a sold-out crowd in Boulder.

Gordon's teammates rushed the floor and celebrated the whirlwind victory as if they had just been granted new life.

On Wednesday, the Sun Devils were finished. On Saturday, the Sun Devils were back.

This team is riding a wave of momentum after Gordon's big shot, and they feel prepared to carry that over to this week's home games.

State of the Cougars: The last time the Cougars met the Sun Devils, they were coming off just their second Pac-12 conference win after defeating Oregon State.

In the matchup in Pullman, Washington State pushed Arizona State to the brink and lost 63-59 after a late charge from Carson and the Sun Devils.

Since the loss to Arizona State, things have turned rather sour for the Cougars. The boys from Pullman have dropped six straight games including an overtime nail-biter against Oregon their last time out.

The narrow loss to the Ducks should give the Cougars reason to believe, as they did compete and matchup well with Arizona State earlier this year.

The Cougars will have their hands full as point guard Mike Ladd will likely remain sidelined with a knee injury. In his absence against Oregon, Royce Woolridge did step up and score a career-high 36 points, but the Sun Devils would rather face Woolridge than Ladd.

With Ladd out, that means Brock Motum will be scoring option No. 1. The 6-foot-10 monster struggled in his matchup with Jonathan Gilling in the previous meeting as he shot just 3-13.

If the Cougars want to officially ruin the Sun Devils' Cinderella story, they'll need a dominating performance from Motum and the help of role players like Woolridge to fill Ladd's void.

Game Prediction: It was too easy to count the Sun Devils out after their loss against the Utes. This team has an incredible amount of heart and consistently plays above its talent level. In reality, the Sun Devils have almost no bench production and a well-known deficiency from the free throw line, so 19 wins is nothing short of amazing.

However, the Cougars know the Sun Devils are vulnerable on any given night. This team is hungry for an upset, and nearly pulled one off against the Ducks last weekend. In his last visit to Tempe, Brock Motum dropped 34 points, so he clearly likes his chances this time around.

The Sun Devils not only should win, but they need to win. The pressure nearly got to this team against Colorado, but expect the impressive home performances to continue against the Cougars.

The Sun Devils take this one 68-59.

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