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ASU Basketball: Poor second half sinks Sun Devils in Palo Alto

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Still searching for that first conference road sweep.

NCAA Basketball: Arizona State at Stanford Robert Edwards-USA TODAY Sports

It looked like much of the games ASU has played this season. The Sun Devils got out of the gates to a slow start, clawed their way back and found themselves only down two at the break.

However, it all fell apart in the second half as Arizona State (11-5, 2-2) came out lifeless while the Cardinal (8-8, 1-3) began the latter portion of the game on a 12-0 run en route to an 85-71 victory in Palo Alto.

There wasn’t an aspect of the game where the Sun Devils played well, but the game came down to turnovers and inefficient shooting inside the arc. ASU shot 19-for-48 from two-point range good for only 39.5 percent, and turned the ball over 19 times.

Neither of those numbers are nearly good enough, especially facing a more desperate, hungrier opponent like Stanford. The Sun Devils had issues dealing with the Cardinal’s bigs in sophomore forwards KZ Okpala and Oscar Da Silva, who each scored 21 points on a combined 17-of-24 from the field.

The duo combined to absolutely dominate ASU around the basket on both ends of the floor. It was surprising for numerous reasons, but mainly because of the Sun Devils’ personnel, they haven’t had too many issues containing interior scorers.

It was a tale of two halves for freshman guard Luguentz Dort, who road the roller coaster like the majority of his first collegiate season. Dort scored 15 points in the first half, including knocking down three consecutive three-point shots, getting the Sun Devils closer after an early deficit.

Unfortunately, when things went wrong for ASU, Dort was part of the issues. He only scored one point the second half and fouled out, including a charge when they desperately needed a bucket during Stanford’s game-clinching 12-0 run out of halftime.

As the Sun Devils’ best player, Dort receives much of the blame for lackluster performances. In a game where so little went right, a common weakness reared its ugly head at the free throw line. Arizona State finished the game 6-of-17 at the charity stripe.

For a team that doesn’t shoot the ball exceptionally well, missing free throws is part of the deal. But, the rate that these shots aren’t going down is alarming.

Senior forward Zylan Cheatham did a lot different things for ASU as he scored eight points, with 12 rebounds and four assists. It was an emotional day for Cheatham, who flew back to Phoenix in the morning to attend the memorial service for his brother who passed away recently.

Head coach Bobby Hurley told the Pac-12 Network’s pregame show the team did everything they could to ensure that Cheatham could attend the services and be available to play against Stanford. Hurley mentioned that it was Cheatham’s decision to play.

The Sun Devils now return to Tempe for matchups with the Oregon schools. ASU went 1-3 against both teams last season, and will be seeking to avenge those losses and to re-establish themselves as one of the better teams in the Pac-12.