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ASU Basketball: NIT quarterfinal berth on the line for the Sun Devils at Richmond

Arizona State's NIT run continues in Richmond against the top-seeded Spiders.

Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

Tip-off: 4:30 p.m. PST

Television: ESPNU

Fresh off a first round victory last Wednesday at Connecticut, Arizona State returns to action Sunday against Richmond. The Sun Devils are feeling good after closing their NIT opener on a 9-2 run to hold off the Huskies. Their reward is a few extra days on their trip out east, now heading south to face the top-seeded Spiders. A win there places them in the quarterfinals on Tuesday in Coral Gables against Miami (Florida).

ASU update 18-15 (9-9):

Senior Shaquille McKissic continued his hot play at Connecticut, taking over in the closing minutes to lead the maroon and gold to victory. He scored seven of the team's final nine points and finished the day with a game high 22 points. What McKissic, and the rest of the team, still needs to learn is how to play with a lead. They gave up a double digit advantage late in the second half for the second consecutive game, and playing like that against a one seed will get you knocked out of the tournament.

Richmond update 20-13 (12-6):

Heading into Selection Sunday, the Spiders were largely projected as a low two or high three seed for the NIT. The NCAA Tournament selection committee ended up throwing everyone a curveball though, listing them as one of their first four teams out and guaranteeing them a one seed for the NIT. So, perhaps Richmond was slightly overseeded, which should benefit ASU (in theory). However, that's not to say the Spiders aren't talented. They beat VCU twice in less than a month and handled a solid Davidson team by 26 points back in January. They have won seven of their last eight and are led by senior guard Kendall Anthony, who is averaging 16.5 points per game. Anthony poured in 12 points and five assists in Wednesday's 84-74 win against St. Francis Brooklyn.

Keys to victory

1. Increased effort on defense

The Sun Devils only allowed 24 first half points in Storrs earlier in the week, and they have a good shot at advancing if they can find that same success for all 40 minutes Sunday. That is easier said than done, however. Richmond is one of the top teams in the country at taking care of the ball, so turnovers might be coming at a premium.

2. Points off turnovers

With that being said, Arizona State desperately needs to take advantage of the times when they do turn the Spiders over. Herb Sendek's team has suffered from long stretches of offensive lulls all season, but sometimes, the best offense is a good defense. Get a steal, get out on a fastbreak, and you can grab a cheap bucket along with some momentum.

3. Play like you're behind

As we mentioned earlier, the Sun Devils are starting a trend of getting up big and then losing that lead late. That is a product of playing like you are trying to protect a lead and not keeping your foot on the gas. If they just stay with the gameplan and compete like they are trying to win something and not lose it, the maroon and gold should not fall victim to all of these maddening comeback attempts.

Prediction: Richmond - 66, ASU - 64