Las Vegas - There is an old saying in boxing that styles make fights. If two men enter the ring with contrasting styles, spectators are bound for an exciting fight. Or, if one fighter has the perfect style for his opponent it can lead him to victory regardless of talent.
That saying holds true to other sports as well, including college basketball. And for Arizona State, their style just does not mesh well with the style of the Stanford Cardinal.
The Cardinal boast one of the more impressive frontcourts in the Pac-12, led by All-Pac-12 selection Dwight Powell and 6-foot-11 center Stefan Nastic. Once again, Stanford's big, physical frontcourt gave Arizona State fits.
The Cardinal dominated the glass and the paint on their way to a 79-58 victory Thursday night in the quarterfinals of thePac-12 tournament.
"On a night where we had guys struggling on offense, we didn't give ourselves enough of a chance defensively," head coach Herb Sendek said. "In the second half we had so many opportunities that we didn't convert and you could see that carry over to our defense."
Once again, Arizona State struggled out of the gate. The Sun Devils missed their first six shots and fell behind Stanford 9-0 less than four minutes into the contest. Guard Bo Barnes came off the bench and gave Arizona State its first points of the game on a backdoor layup at the 15:00 mark of the first half.
The first ten minutes of the game were a struggle for Arizona State as point guard Jahii Carson and company soon found themselves down double digits. Arizona State started the game 2-10 from the field while Stanford started 6-12.
Arizona State's two leading scorers, Carson and shooting guard Jermaine Marshall, combined to start 0-9 from the field and neither scored a point in the first half.
"We have some guys right now who are struggling," Sendek said. "Against a good offensive team like Stanford you have to be able to convert some on offense."
The Sun Devils finally began to convert on offense midway through the first half and it came from two unlikely sources. Forward Jonathan Gilling and Barnes combined to score 20 points off the bench in the first half on 7-10 shooting.
Despite Sun Devil starters combining for just seven points in the first half and shooting 2-15 from the field, the Sun Devils trailed Stanford by just three points, 30-27, at halftime.
However, once again the Sun Devils came out sluggish to start a half, as Stanford outscored Arizona State 18-9 in the first seven minutes of the second half. Carson's first points came at the 14:03 mark of the second half, as the sophomore struggled against the Stanford length, finishing with 10 points on 4-13 shooting.
"I really didn't make shots," Carson said. "We didn't make shots, we didn't defend the basketball. When you give up as many offensive rebounds as we did, you are not going to win basketball games."
Arizona State's most glaring weakness was its demise: offensive rebounding. Coming into Thursday night's game, the Sun Devils ranked last in the Pac-12 in that category. The Sun Devils were once again pounded on the glass, being outrebounded 34-23. Out of 30 missed shots, the Sun Devils collected just two offensive rebounds.
"We just really struggled to rebound the ball," Sendek said. "It's almost not even possible to miss 30 shots and only have two offensive rebounds."
Both center Jordan Bachynski and forward Eric Jacobsen were in foul trouble all night. Jacobsen picked up two fouls in the first two minutes of the game and picked up his third foul less than six minutes into the game. Bachynski sat out most of the second half with three fouls.
The foul trouble forced Sendek to go with a small lineup, like he did against Stanford in Tempe. That lineup had success in Arizona State's victory over the Cardinal earlier in the season. This time around not so much. Stanford shot 70-percent from the field in the second half, including 5-7 from beyond the arc.
"We were having a hard time as we have had in the past with Jordan (Bachynski) guarding (Dwight) Powell on the perimeter," Sendek said. "At that point we decided to try something else. Obviously it did not work a great deal, better if at all."
Arizona State pulled within six when a three-point play from Shaq McKissic cut the Stanford lead to 51-45 with 8:56 to play. The Cardinal responded with a 24-8 run over the next seven minutes to put the Sun Devils away. There was just too much size and too much physicality from Stanford.
"They can space out the floor, and they can post us up," Carson said. "We weren't up to par as far as energy and effort."
Stanford saw four players finish in double figure scoring, led by Chasson Randle's game-high 21 points. Dwight Powell finished with 15 points on 6-8 shooting and Josh Huestis tallied 12 points and seven rebounds.
To say Arizona State is limping into the NCAA tournament is a bit of an understatement. The Sun Devils have lost three games in a row for the first time all season and they are 2-5 in their last seven games. However, Bachynski has faith that his team will respond in the NCAA tournament, so long as they make it.
"Hopefully our resume is what it needs to be and I'm just going to have faith that we are in. I'm going to be praying on Selection Sunday and everyday leading up to it," Bachynski said.