Arizona State (19-8, 7-8) has almost turned coming back into games as its M.O. Although it came in a losing effort, the Sun Devils stormed back down 18 against Arizona a week ago and facing a much smaller deficit, many thought another would come on Thursday.
After getting 10-straight points from Elijah Brown in what became a 13-0 Oregon (18-10, 8-7) run, the Ducks didn’t allow the Devils to grab anything more than a a sliver of hope.
The Devils ended up falling 75-68 to Oregon in Eugene on Thursday, but it didn’t look like that to start. Many have grown frustrated with ASU’s poor play of the gates, it often finds itself in big holes early, spending the rest of the game trying to claw itself back — but that wasn’t the issue Thursday.
Remy Martin and Shannon Evans combined for 12 points in the game’s first eight minutes as the Devils looked like they might shoot the lights out of Oregon. Spoiler alert: they didn’t.
Aside from how the start played itself out, Thursday followed almost the same script as Oregon’s 76-72 win over ASU back in January: The Ducks controlled the paint and dominated on the glass — what else do you need?
In both games, Oregon had a 22-point advantage down low and outrebounded the Devils by seven and eight, respectively. Forwards Kenny Wooten and MiKyle McIntosh combined for 24 points as the Ducks won the paint 36-14.
The pair also all but took ASU’s big men out of the game. For the second straight game, the Sun Devil forwards fell victim to foul trouble. Kimani Lawrence and De’Quon Lake both finished with three and Mickey Mitchell and Romello White, who tallied zero points and zero rebounds, ended the game with four.
What did happen in the Ducks and Devils first meeting, however, was a Tra Holder basket. The senior guard recorded 14 points in Tempe, but for the first time since a February, 2016 game at Utah, Holder failed to score a point in six tries.
Holder is the Devils leading scorer at 19.3 points per game. Having that production halted completely in 30 minutes of action is troubling. And although the senior added a few rebounds and a pair of assists, he was a game-low -19 on Thursday.
Despite the Ducks holding Holder scoreless, ASU still had a chance to come out of Eugene with a victory. After being down more than 10 multiple times, the Devils kept fighting back, but with no avail.
Evans, who finished with a game-high 25 points, scored seven straight after the Devils were down 11 in a run that helped Arizona State get within a possession, but it could never get any closer.
The Sun Devils are now eighth in the Pac-12 standings with only three games left to play. Those next three — against, in order, Oregon State, Cal and Stanford — will be key for ASU’s seeding in both the conference tournament and the NCAA Tournament.
If ASU gets outscored in the paint as they did against Oregon or Holder provides less-than average production, though, then the Devils may not be around long in either tournament.