LAS VEGAS — It always ends in a loss.
Save for the lucky select few that win their respective postseason tournaments, the cruel reality of this sport is that nearly all of the 351 teams playing Division I basketball will end their season with disappointment.
An exhausted Arizona State team (15-17) shot just 24.2 percent from the field in the final stanza, watching a three-point halftime deficit turn into an 80-57 defeat in the process.
With the team expected to decline a CBI invitation while also not being in position to be selected for either the NCAA Tournament or NIT, the loss marked a definitive end to the 2016-17 season for the Sun Devils.
Per a team source, Arizona State will decline a CBI invitation if offered. The season is over.— Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) March 9, 2017
“It’s a disappointing end,” said head coach Bobby Hurley after the loss. “We played a great basketball team today. The bottom line is we weren’t as good as we needed to be.”
Junior forward Dillon Brooks led Oregon (27-4) with 22 points, while shooting guard Tyler Dorsey followed closely behind with 21.
Playing in his final game wearing Maroon and Gold, senior Torian Graham led all scorers with 32 points and seven made three-pointers. He was the only Sun Devil to finish the day in double figures.
“I don’t really want to talk about the points since we lost,” Graham said when asked about the performance.
Looking to create some early energy and tire out an Arizona State team with a short bench playing in its second game in less than 24 hours, the Ducks threw out multiple full-court looks while on defense early on in this one.
The pressure sped up the Sun Devils but did not create as many turnovers as head coach Dana Altman may have hoped. Buoyed by four Graham three-pointers and some late Oregon mistakes, the tournament’s eight seed only trailed 34-31 at the halftime break.
“I thought we started out fairly well,” said Hurley. “Torian had it going early from the perimeter and out offense was doing pretty well, and then we just hit a wall in terms of fatigue or the wear from yesterday’s game. We just didn’t have quite the same pop in the second half.”
The Maroon and Gold hit that wall fast and hard to start the second half. Missing 13 of their first 14 shots from the field, the Ducks were able to take advantage of their opponent’s dry spell to open up a 54-38 lead.
That all but ended Arizona State’s hopes of an upset, and while Hurley’s team did pull within eight with seven minutes remaining on a four-point play from Graham, Oregon promptly responded with a 20-3 run to put the game out of reach.
The final score was 80-57.
“(The Sun Devils) are a dangerous team,” Altman said. “They shoot the ball well and can get it going from three. I think they just got a little tired in the second half after a very competitive ballgame yesterday, and that enabled us to pull away at the end.”
Altman’s team now marches on the semifinals, where they will try and lock up a No. 1 seed for the NCAA Tournament.
Arizona State, meanwhile, is headed back to Tempe, where it will not play another game until November.
“Those guys sacrificed and gave as much as they could give,” said Hurley when asked about the future of the program. “I loved coaching them, and I’m excited about the guys returning, the guys we have signed, and where we’re headed.”
This season might have ended in a loss, but life goes on.
And while Thursday might have ended in disappointment, brighter days lie ahead for the Sun Devils.