With nine minutes gone and only six points on the scoreboard, the Arizona State Sun Devils were in trouble.
Losers of their last four, Bobby Hurley's team found themselves lost on offense in front of a small and sleepy crowd late on Thursday night against the Stanford Cardinal.
The Sun Devils needed something to go right, and they needed it quickly.
That something came in the most unlikely of places. The conference's worst shooting team (albeit, most determined) suddenly caught fire in the final ten minutes of Thursday's first half, taking advantage of a Stanford zone that dared the team to shoot the ball from anywhere beyond 20 feet.
Arizona State (15-15, 5-12 Pac-12) rode its hot finish to the first stanza to a 15-point halftime advantage, allowing the team to eventually cruise to a 74-64 win. The victory was their first since back on February 12 against USC.
"We had some decent looks and didn't make them," said ASU coach Bobby Hurley after the game. "But as the half progressed we ended up shooting 7-of-14 from three and made enough plays on offense to take the lead. We couldn't have played the last few minutes of the first half any better."
Junior Savon Goodman ended up leading Arizona State with 16 points in the win, but four other Sun Devils finished in double figures. Phoenix product Dorian Pickens actually led all scorers on Thursday, scoring 19 points off the bench for the Cardinal (15-13, 8-9).
As Hurley alluded to, the start was not a good one.
Both teams came out a bit sluggish and could get anything to fall early on. The Sun Devils only managed three points by the time the first media timeout rolled around, and that total was doubled to six four minutes later.
Thankfully for Hurley and company, the Cardinal did not have much luck on their end either. The home team was able to pull even at 13-13 with 9:45 remaining in the half, and a three-pointer from Willie Atwood put the team up for good at 19-16 less than two minutes later.
"We got defensive stops," Goodman said after the game. "We were able to rebound well and shut them down defensively."
From then on, the Sun Devils used the energy from their defense and lit up their opponent from beyond the arc. They closed the half on an 18-6 run, with 12 of those points coming via the long ball. That binge gave the maroon and gold a 37-22 lead at the half - their best opening 20 minutes since their February 6 win at Washington State.
"I thought our effort was outstanding - especially in the first half," said Hurley. "I loved how we closed the half with the energy on defense."
A strong start to the second half allowed Arizona State to keep its lead at a comfortable distance.
An 8-2 run pushed the advantage to 53-32 with just 13 minutes still to play, allowing the Sun Devils to ease up and take their foot off of the gas pedal. To its credit, Stanford still fought hard through the end of the game.
Johnny Dawkins' team eventually started to warm up late in the second half, and a breakdown in ASU's defense allowed Marcus Allen to flush home a dunk to make the score 66-58 with 1:45 remaining. That would be the closest the visitors from Palo Alto would get.
The maroon and gold salted the game away from the free throw line in the final 90 seconds, giving the team a 74-64 win that was desperately needed to keep their slim NIT hopes alive.
Next up for Arizona State is its regular season finale on Saturday against the California Golden Bears. Tipoff is set for 6:00 p.m. (MT), and the game will be televised by ESPN2.