With their backs against the wall and their postseason hopes under serious threat of slipping away, Arizona State (4-7, 1-5 Pac-12) played its most complete game of the season against Arizona (11-3, 5-3).
The Sun Devils shot 46 percent from the field, a season high 52 percent on 3-pointers, grabbed nine offensive rebounds, and went to the free-throw line 29 times, and they lost 84-82 on a shot/pass tip-in at the buzzer by Azuolas Tubelis.
It’s a cruel world sometimes.
Of course, as unfortunate as the broken play that gave the Wildcats the victory was for the Sun Devils, the home team had their opportunities to close this out.
After taking an 82-77 lead with 2:22 remaining, the Devils failed to score for the remainder of the game, and allowed a 7-0 Wildcat run over the last 1:46.
ASU’s collapse also soured what could have been Josh Christopher’s defining moment in the rivalry.
The freshman was all over the court, lighting a bonfire-sized flame under his teammates by airing his emotions out for anyone within earshot of Desert Financial Arena. During the second half, he came alive for 16 points and knocked down all three of his 3-point attempts.
The last 3-point shot should have been the dagger, a pull-up three that put ASU up five, but ended up being the Devils’ last points of the contest.
Remy Martin and Alonzo Verge played well off each other, one of the first times that could be said this season. The seniors combined for 30 points, but went 0-3 on the final three possessions.
The last miss from Martin was an uncharacteristic mistake from a veteran. Here’s a look at the final play, take notice of the one-second differential between the shot clock and game clock when Martin begins his drive.
Even if Martin would’ve converted this tough shot, Arizona still would’ve had the last shot and a chance to win the game with a three.
ASU head coach Bobby Hurley wanted a foul called on this drive from Martin, but it’s hard to excuse rushing what should have been the last shot of the game. Now, for the first time during Hurley’s tenure, the team has lost five straight games.
The Wildcats were paced by junior guard James Akinjo, who finished with 24 points and five 3’s. As a team, Arizona shot 88 percent from the free-throw line as opposed to 72 percent from the Sun Devils.
But perhaps the best statistic in favor of Arizona was its 11-20 number on 3-pointers.
Taking that into account, it’s amazing the Sun Devils, a much smaller team than the Wildcats, were able to hang with their in-state rivals.
They didn’t just do that, they nearly won the thing. A large amount of the credit should go to players like Jalen Graham and Holland Woods, who combined for 19 points.
There is no question, this ASU team is going to be remembered in Tempe as wasted potential.
But keep in mind that if two last second plays in the last two games had worked out differently, we could be talking about the Sun Devils looking to build momentum coming off two victories instead of grappling with five straight losses.
ASU will get a chance at revenge on Monday in Tucson. That game tips off at 9 p.m. AZ time on ESPN2.