LAS VEGAS - No full-court heave could save Arizona State this time.
The Sun Devils (22-12) lost their Pac-12 semifinal matchup to Arizona (27-6) 78-59 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas Friday night.
Wildcat big man Azuolas Tubelis scored six points off three quick baskets early in the game to draw attention from the Sun Devil defense. As the game went on, that opened up the three-point attack for the Wildcats. Sharpshooters Pelle Larrson and Courtney Ramey would take advantage, with each making multiple threes.
“I got to give credit right away to Arizona, how they played,” coach Bobby Hurley said. “Their interior players were outstanding tonight. There’s a reason why they’re considered maybe the best tandem on the front court in the country. They were really good.”
For ASU, Jamiya Neal kept the Sun Devils competitive early. Neal provided a first half team-high of 10 points and a plus-minus (+-) of 2 off the bench, the second-highest on the team.
DJ Horne and Luther Muhammad shooting a combined 0-for-7 is hurting right now. Need the midrange game offensively.— House of Sparky (@HouseOfSparky) March 11, 2023
Big men Washington, Devan Cambridge and Gaffney are 3-for-10 for 9 points.
The teams traded leads during the first half until Arizona went on an 13-3 run three-quarters into the first half. The Wildcats would never surrender their lead. Arizona stretched its lead to 35-28 at half. The Sun Devils would cut that margin to under-five points at three different times in the second half, but they would never tie it.
Given Arizona State’s size and strength, or lack thereof, there is no room to go 0-for-9 on three-pointers in a half, which is precisely what the Sun Devils did after halftime against the Wildcats. The Sun Devils only shot 32.3% (21-for-65) from the field all-night.
Little Bobby Hurley was the only player for ASU with a positive plus-minus (1) on Friday. He entered during garbage time and Duke Brennan made a free-throw.
“Our style, I don’t think, is conducive necessarily to playing multiple days in a row,” coach Hurley said. “Just how we press, and how much energy we exert on defense, I think if we were a slower-paced slower-tempo team, we might have had a better opportunity to have a chance.”
Guard DJ Horne scored 9 points after going silent in the first half.
Wildcat big Oumar Ballo recorded a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds. The Wildcats’ 19-point lead at the final buzzer was its biggest of the game, even though they only shot 42.9% (6-for-14) from the free-throw line. It could have been much worse for ASU.
ASU should probably be in the First Four, but the reality is that its future is in somebody else's hands.— House of Sparky (@HouseOfSparky) March 11, 2023
Frustrating and frightening.
ASU now patiently waits for Selection Sunday to see if it receives a bid to the NCAA tournament. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi projects the Sun Devils as the last team into the field of 68, which would include a First Four appearance in Dayton.
“I truly believe, though, that if you take our three best wins and you compare them to other bubble teams, I don’t think it’s close,” Hurley said. “We’ve demonstrated that we could go away from our home court and win, and that’s a major priority in the NCAA tournament. We have seven true road games, road wins, five, we’re 5-1 on a neutral court. So we won 22 games in a power conference. I mean, how much more do you really have to do?”