TEMPE - Nine months ago, Arizona State (8-1, 2-0 Pac-12) found itself on the wrong side of a wild finish against Stanford (3-6, 0-2) in the Pac-12 tournament. Sunday, on their home floor, they turned the tables on the Cardinal and pulled out a close 68-64 victory.
FINAL: ASU wins 68-64— House of Sparky (@HouseOfSparky) December 5, 2022
Clutch shooting puts the Cardinals away as the Sun Devils snag their sixth straight victory. pic.twitter.com/4daiaPd1qR
Leading by as many as 13 points early in the second half, ASU’s defense was putting on yet another clinic as the No. 16 ranked team by defensive efficiency on KenPom showed out again.
However, with the struggles from deep continuing, Stanford erased that lead at the five-minute mark and plenty of Sun Devil fans were having flashbacks to Las Vegas when ASU squandered a 14-point lead to the Cardinal. This group, however, had a different energy to them. Whether it came from Kenny Dillingham’s early first-half speech or not, the Sun Devils were able to fight back the Stanford march in a way they couldn’t last season.
“It’s a game of runs,” Warren Washington said. “They were gonna go on a run regardless and we just had to weather the storm.”
“I never was feeling panicked,” Bobby Hurley said. “We have a group that really knows how to win and they’ve proven that they can make winning plays. Even when things were looking dicey at times, I trusted that we would find a way.”
And found a way the Sun Devils did.
Early on, Arizona State’s way of winning was the same as it has been all year. In the first half, the Sun Devils’ defense put on yet another clinic, holding Stanford to just 7-for-28 shooting and 2-for-13 from deep.
After Stanford took their first and only lead of the game at the 5:27 mark, Desmond Cambridge flipped the switch yet again.
Following his heroics in Boulder last Thursday, Desmond came up huge again down the stretch for ASU, scoring the four quick points to take the lead back.
“I can bring us together,” Cambridge Jr. said with confidence. “I can just give us a spark because we’re going to play defense consistently.”
“He’s got a lot of confidence,” said Hurley on the sixth-year collegiate player. “He’s a guy that we could really trust out there to make big shots and big plays.”
Cambridge’s 19-point spark helped light the inferno which fueled ASU’s 14-4 run to put the game away late. Highlighted by even more defense and timely scoring, the Sun Devils were able to overcome another rough three-point shooting night, going just 4-for-23. The three-point shooting was the biggest weakness to the naked eye, but Arizona State struggled on offense universally against a tough Stanford team that capitalized on ASU’s mistakes.
“We weren’t working to get open,” Hurley said. “We were giving away points on offense and they were stealing it and laying it in.”
Along with the poor mark from behind the arc, the Sun Devils turned the ball over 17 times, with a handful of them allowing Stanford back in the game in the second half. A stretch of five-plus minutes without points midway through the back 20 also contributed to the tight score down the stretch.
Even with the struggles with the ball refusing to subside, the team has ridden their defensive effort to six straight wins, especially on Sunday.
“Our defense was a lot better than the numbers even say,” said Hurley. “Our plan was to try to speed them up and make them uncomfortable, make them shoot a fraction of a second quicker than they want to.”
“We all just wanna win, and to win you gotta play defense,” Washington said. “We’re just following the blueprint that Bobby planned for us.”
With the win, the Sun Devils move to 8-1, their best start since 2018 while being 2-0 in conference play for the first time under Bobby Hurley. While the Sun Devils continue to succeed on the court, off-the-court issues are still present. The Marcus Bagley saga has come to a “step away” from the team for the former top 30 recruit, according to Bobby Hurley.
Regardless, Sunday’s contest was the second game in a row that the Sun Devils have had to fight to the death to win, but well worth the cold dish of revenge served to a Stanford team that ended Arizona State’s season last March. With a handful of top 25 teams going down this past week, and the Devils receiving six votes in last week’s AP poll, Bobby Hurley’s squad could be poised for its first appearance in the top 25 since December 2020.