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ASU Basketball: Second half explosion dooms Devils against Ducks, 91-74

A tight game at halftime turned into a blowout as Oregon topped Arizona State, 91-74.

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

The Arizona State Sun Devils were flying high after the first half of Sunday night's game at Wells Fargo Arena, having taken a punch from a soon-to-be-top 20 Oregon Ducks team and responding back with one of their own.

The story was much different 20 minutes later.

Using a more aggressive and assertive offensive attack, Oregon (18-4, 7-2 Pac-12) enforced its will with ease in the second half and cruised to a 91-74 win.

"They really separated themselves tonight was with their athletic ability and length," said head coach Bobby Hurley. "That ability creates turnovers and block shots."

Four Ducks finished the contest with multiple steals, and forward Chris Boucher ended the night with an obscene seven blocks. Boucher ended up with a double-double in the victory, scoring 26 points and pulling down 10 rebounds in addition to his shot-blocking prowess.

It was Boucher that started the game strong with an old-fashioned 3-point play, giving Oregon a 3-0 lead that would eventually balloon to a 13-0 advantage. Sun Devil forward Obinna Oleka ended ASU's early drought, getting a dunk and three-pointer on consecutive possessions to start whittling away at the large deficit.

Arizona State dominated the Ducks over the next several minutes, using an increased emphasis on rebounding to limit its opponent's chances on the defensive end of the floor.

A 26-9 run gave ASU its first lead of the game (at 26-25), and the remainder of the half was played with neither team holding an advantage of more than four points. Another Oleka triple, this one with just nine seconds left in the half, pulled his team to within 37-36, as both teams headed to the locker rooms.

"Was not happy with our start," Hurley said. "I did like our response to climb back into the ball game though. All things considered, to go into the half with the way we started the game, I was happy with our position."

That position quickly changed. Arizona State was whistled for five fouls in the first three minutes of the second stanza, four of which resulted in free throws.

Oregon made all nine of the free tosses it was given in that stretch, quickly turning a one-point lead into a comfortable seven-point cushion.

"I've got to watch the tape," said Hurley when asked about the foul calls. "There was some frustration there, but you have go to give credit to Oregon. They put the officials in a position where they had to do something."

The Ducks continued driving hard throughout the remainder of the game, pressuring (and often succeeding in) the officials to whistle any contact on the defense.

The game really turned with the Sun Devils trailing 70-63 at the five minute mark, when point guard Tra Holder was whistled for a controversial reaching foul. An already fired up Hurley immediately showed his displeasure with the call, which was apparently the last straw for an officiating crew that had heard its share of complaints throughout the evening.

A technical was issued, and the three free throws Oregon made as a result of the two fouls pushed its lead back to double digits. That proved to be the straw that broke the camel's back as Arizona State wasn't able to string together enough stops in the final minutes to get back within striking distance.

The final score ended up being 91-74, marking the team's worst loss of the season to date. The Sun Devils dropped to 12-10 (2-7) with the loss, and now face a severe uphill climb in the second half of Pac-12 play if they are to make a run at an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.

"The record is clearly not what we had hoped," Hurley said after the loss. "It's definitely below what our expectations were."

The team will try and right the ship on Wednesday in Seattle, as they battle the Washington Huskies to start the month of February. Tipoff is set for 9:00 p.m. (MT) and the game will be televised by ESPNU.