The Morning After: ASU hoops’ loss to Stanford

A look back at Arizona State’s 62-59 loss to Stanford Saturday:

 

Small ball

It was a risky move by coach Herb Sendek to play without a center for the last 14:23 of the game, but it nearly resulted in a win.

When sophomore forward Jonathan Gilling checked in for senior center Ruslan Pateev, ASU outscored Stanford 25-13 during the stretch. The Sun Devils even outrebounded the Cardinal 15-14 in the final 14:23.

“We weren’t getting any benefit on offense from it and defensively we were having a hard time with our bigs out on the perimeter guarding,” Sendek said. “We tried to matchup with them a little bit better by going small ball with about 14 minutes to go in the game. I think it helped us close the gap.”

In the end, ASU just couldn’t knock down shots. After senior wing Carrick Felix made a three-pointer to make it 54-44 with 11:43 left, the Sun Devils missed 12 straight shots. They missed seven shots within five feet of the rim and five open three-point attempts.

In nine minutes of play, Gilling was the only player to score. He made four free throws, including two at 7:15 mark to make it 56-51. The Sun Devils didn’t score again until the 2:37 mark when Felix scored on a dunk.

“Going into the game, we were very aware of the matchup challenges that (junior forward) Dwight Powell and (junior forward) Josh Huestis along the front line cause. Those guys are terrific players. And in order to get back in the game, we went small ball and made a flurry. Really had some opportunities with some open looks, looking back that might’ve put us in an even better position right now.”

 

Felix and Carson clamped down

The only reason ASU remained in the game was due to its aggressive play defensively.

Stanford shot 58.3 percent in the first half. With the smaller lineup, redshirt freshman point guard Jahii Carson played great on-ball defense. ASU started to press Stanford and Carson was able to force turnovers and disrupt Stanford’s offensive flow.

“The posts were getting whatever they wanted to do,” Carson said. “We tried to switch up and catch them off guard with a little pressure. Make the guards speed up a little bit and get them to not get the bigs the ball as much.”

The Cardinal couldn’t take advantage of the frontcourt mismatches as a result and shot 4-of-13 from the floor in last 14:23. Stanford committed all eight second half turnovers when ASU went small.

Felix basically guarded everyone else.

He started off on junior forward Josh Huesits. Then he ended the first half on junior forward John Gage who scored 11 points on 4-of-4 shooting at halftime.

In the second half, Felix basically switched over to guard whoever had the hot hand. Felix is very versatile and can guard every position effectively, but he couldn’t guard the whole team.

“Each and every guy on their team can step behind the arc and knock it down,” Felix said. “In the first half, Gage came off the bench, and he’s their x-factor, and he didn’t miss a shot in the first half. I just think it comes down with us just focus and execution to what the defensive plans were and just knowing personnel, knowing who their shooters are, knowing who their rebounders are and things like that.”

 

Free throw woes

While it’s difficult to blame one area of the game as the main reason for ASU’s defeat, shooting 8-of-16 from the free throw line didn’t help its cause.

“In a close game, which it seems every game we play is close, we just don’t give ourselves any breathing room with free throws once again going 8-of-16 and missing front ends on 1-and-1’s on top of that,” Sendek said. “That’s hard to overcome.”

The Sun Devils are worst free throw shooting team in the Pac-12, making 62.1 percent. Heading into Saturday’s contest, they were 325th out of 345 Division I schools at the line.

“It’s very frustrating, because I see us working on it each and every day,” Felix said. “It’s just a focus thing when you step to the line in the game and the crowd there. It’s going to be a lot of pressure, but you just got to clear your head and focus and knock the free throws down. Right now in college basketball, that seems to be what gives teams wins.”

 

Reach the reporter at mtesfats@asu.edu