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ASU Men’s Basketball: Sun Devils leave Bay Area with two gutsy wins to begin Pac-12 play 2-0

Arizona State squeaked out two wins to begin the final Pac-12 season

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: DEC 29 Arizona State at Stanford Photo by Larry Placido/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Arizona State (8-5, 2-0 Pac-12) led for a combined three minutes and ten seconds in the final Bay Area road series of the Pac-12. Winners of both games, the Sun Devils returned to Tempe in the new year with two conference road wins to begin conference play, last accomplished by ASU in 1987.

Trailing for 70 of the 80 total minutes between games against Stanford (6-6, 1-1 Pac-12) and Cal (4-9, 0-2 Pac-12), head coach Bobby Hurley’s team showed a familiar quality; unwavering desire to compete.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: DEC 29 Arizona State at Stanford
Arizona State’s resiliency led them to two road victories against Stanford and Cal to open up Pac-12 play.
Photo by Larry Placido/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

In the Hurley era, ASU leads the Pac-12 and is top-15 in the nation in halftime deficit comebacks with 43. In the past five seasons, the Sun Devils have won 39 games decided by two possessions or less — the most in the country during that span.

One thing is for certain, Hurley’s boys will always play with full effort. That is a true testament to coaching and leadership on and off the court.

Friday- Arizona State 76, Stanford 73

The Sun Devils led the game in Palo Alto for 30 seconds, but the most important 30 seconds of the game. After an electric first half from the Cardinal, which saw Stanford knock down six of 14 attempts from 3-point (43 percent), the Sun Devils faced a sizable lead.

In the first half, the Sun Devils went cold in Maples Pavilion, only hitting five of 18 shots (28 percent) from beyond the 3-point arc. Junior guard Frankie Collins did the best he could in the first half when he scored eight points to lead the Sun Devils.

Stanford held ASU scoreless for the final three minutes of the first half.

The second half was a story of sticking around for ASU. While the largest Cardinal lead was 12 points at the 11:29 mark of the second half, the Sun Devils consistently hit their shots to keep the game within reach.

An underrated reason for ASU’s second-half success was their discipline on defense. Stanford only attempted seven free throws in the game. The Sun Devil backcourt of Collins and graduate student guard Jose Perez each had two steals in the second half.

The Sun Devils also shot the ball at a higher volume, converting on 19 of 34 second-half field goals. Junior guard Adam Miller found his groove in the second as well when he scored 10 of his 13 points on the night.

The real closing effort came from an unexpected scoring option for the Sun Devils on Saturday night, however.

Graduate student forward Alonzo Gaffney racked up seven straight points in the final 1:25 of play to help toward the miraculous comeback.

Sunday- Arizona State 71, Cal 69

Collins led Arizona State to yet another come-from-behind victory, this time across the bay in Haas Pavilion by scoring 25 points. Collins played an electric game, one of his best games in an ASU uniform said Hurley. He added six steals in his well-rounded effort on Sunday.

In the first half, the Golden Bears had three players in or nearing double figures as they were able to distribute the scoring efforts and shoot 10 foul shots. Cal dominated the glass with 27 total rebounds to ASU’s 15 and led 35-25 at halftime.

In the second half, Cal ran their lead up to 16 points in the early stages out of the break. But a 9-0 from the Sun Devils run cut the deficit to just five points going into a critical juncture of the game.

Points off of turnovers is what sparked two separate scoring runs to give ASU the lead of the game with 3:12 remaining. ASU had 16 points off turnovers in the second half in part by seven steals and three blocks.

In the final five minutes of the game, ASU outscored Cal 16-9 to come from behind and steal another win on the road. Collins finished with a career-high 25 points and added to his tally of four career games with at least 20 points as a Sun Devil.

Sophomore guard Kamari Lands also added 11 points and was 3 of 5 from deep.

Arizona State returns home at 7 p.m. on Jan. 5 from Desert Financial Arena to take on Utah.