ASU (18-15) wasn't favored against the University of Connecticut (20-15) Wednesday, but news came down just before game time which changed the discourse about the game. Ryan Boatright, the Huskies All-American Athletic Conference player, missed the game with a shoulder injury.
The Sun Devils were able to take advantage on the ball, won the battle on the boards, and with the help of 22 points from Shaquielle McKissic, took down the Huskies 68-61 in Connecticut.
A 20-7 run by the Sun Devils in the first half gave them a 13-point lead at the break.
The host Huskies eventually settled down, giving fans of the maroon and gold déjà vu as the lead was trimmed away. A Rodney Purvis block with ten minutes remaining led to a wide open dunk for the sophomore guard, cutting their deficit to 51-43.
Feeding off the energy from the crowd at Gampel Pavilion, Connecticut's defense came up with another steal on Arizona State's next trip down the floor. Once again, the pressure led to a runout flush, pulling the Huskies within six and forcing Herb Sendek to call timeout.
The Sun Devils did a good job of responding after that, twice pushing their lead back to 10. Connecticut took that as a cue, however, ramping up the defense to the same level we saw earlier in the half. The increased pressure, combined with the 30 second shot clock that is being used for this tournament, flustered the visitors who came up empty on possession after possession. A 12-2 binge for the Huskies tied the contest at 59 with two and a half minutes left, forcing another timeout from Sendek.
A McKissic three gave the maroon and gold the lead they wouldn't relinquish with 2:10 left in the game. Savon Goodman added 14 points and 9 rebounds in the Sun Devils first NIT win since 2013 against Detroit in Tempe with Jahii Carson at the helm.
ASU shot 51.9 percent from the field and 41.2 percent from three.The maroon and gold also stayed out of foul trouble, bucking a recent trend of fouls hurting the team in the second half. As a whole the Sun Devils only committed eight total fouls in the game. They'll look to cut down on 15 turnovers going forward in the tournament. McKissic did an excellent job of staying aggressive and getting to the hoop late in the game for easy lay-ups to keep ASU ahead.
The Sun Devils will now head straight from Connecticut to Virginia to play No. 1 seed Richmond Sunday at 4:30 p.m. PST on ESPNU.