The Morning After: ASU escapes Cal

Senior center Ruslan Pateev throws down a dunk against Cal on Feb. 7. Pateev tied his career high with 12 points to help ASU beat Cal. (Photo by Molly J. Smith)

Senior center Ruslan Pateev throws down a dunk against Cal on Feb. 7. Pateev tied his career high with 12 points to help ASU beat Cal. (Photo by Molly J. Smith)

A look back at ASU’s 66-62 win over Cal Thursday:

Final stretch

ASU dominated the game for about 32 minutes, then it just couldn’t execute offensively. This game was a lot closer than it should have been with the way the Sun Devils played.

They made one field goal in the final 8:24. ASU struggled to get good shots when the Golden Bears switched back and forth on man and zone defenses. There was a point where ASU fired up contested air balls late in the shot clock.

Cal went on a 14-2 run to close to gap, but the Sun Devils held on due to a couple of big free throws by junior guard Evan Gordon.

“I thought maybe we were a little bit like somebody who is forced to drive a stick shift but never had a real good lesson,” coach Herb Sendek said of the final eight minutes. “I probably could’ve done a better job with our guys of just making sure they knew we still had to play and be in attack mode. I think I probably contributed to some of their hesitancy by not amplifying that mindset.”

 

Gordon goes off

Gordon is heating up at a good time for ASU.

He’s scored double-figures in six of the last seven games. He dropped 23 points on 8-of-12 shooting Thursday and carried ASU offensively in 38 minutes.

When he’s heating up, it adds another element to this team outside of redshirt point guard Jahii Carson and senior wing Carrick Felix. He’s seems to be in a good place shooting the ball and looked patient for most of the game. He was 5-of-8 inside the arc and used the ball fake effectively at times to create higher percentage attempts.

 

Junior guard Evan Gordon goes up strong against Cal defender on Feb. 7. Gordon’s 23 points helped the Sun Devils in a close victory over Cal. (Photo by Molly J. Smith)

Junior guard Evan Gordon goes up strong against Cal defender on Feb. 7. Gordon’s 23 points helped the Sun Devils in a close victory over Cal. (Photo by Molly J. Smith)

Pateev’s energy

Junior center Jordan Bachynski played 13 minutes. He didn’t do anything right.

Senior center Ruslan Pateev did almost everything right when he hit the floor.

Pateev scored 12 points and grabbed eight rebounds in 26 minutes off the bench. He even had two pretty nasty dunks, including this tip-in (Pateev highlights at 1:07).He admitted he was winded due to the extended amount of play, yet he kept hustling.

There was a moment at the 12:21 mark when Pateev stumbled to the floor in attempt to grab an offensive rebound. He was one of the last guys to get down the court, yet he ran back down to the other end and grabbed the defensive rebound.

As I mentioned in the recap, Pateev has played well off the bench in Pac-12 play, but he had arguably his best game as a Sun Devil Thursday. He couldn’t exit the game without a standing ovation from the fans as they chanted “RUSSS.”

“He’s a young man, who’s a senior, who has never been center stage,” Sendek said. “But has always been an unconditional great teammate. So he’s been a constant reminder to everybody in our program of the beauty of being unselfish. And now to see him have these kinds of contributions down the home stretch of his senior year is about as good as it gets for a coach.”

 

Reach the reporter at mtesfats@asu.edu