No. 11 ASU men's basketball falls 76-72 to Oregon in Pac-12 home opener

Lack of bench support, rebounding woes and inside scoring hamper the Sun Devils in loss to Oregon

ASU drew its largest crowd since 2010, but it was the visiting Oregon Ducks (12-5, 2-2 Pac-12), however, who found a way to get the crowd out of the game, defeating the Sun Devils 76-72 on Thursday night. 

Not only that, 4,000 more seats were recently added to Wells Fargo Arena and former ASU standout, James Harden, was in attendance.

"It wasn't the result we were hoping for," ASU head coach Bobby Hurley said. "Though we had opportunities in the first half, two different times to really take hold of the game, but we allowed them to get back (into the game) ... I probably have some responsibility for that because I just didn't quite manage possessions better with the lead."

Senior guard Kodi Justice had another impressive performance, ending the night with 21 points on 50 percent shooting. Senior guard Shannon Evans II showcased consistency once again, as he knocked down 4-of-8 three-pointers and added 19 points.

The slump, nevertheless, has translated for senior guard Tra Holder, who finished the game with 14 points on 4-for-13 shooting. 

The Sun Devils (12-4, 1-3 Pac-12) were outscored in bench points, 22-8 and were dominated in the paint by a 38-16 margin.

Additionally, they missed pivotal free throws down the stretch as they were in striking distance – they missed nine free throws. ASU seemed to have figured out zone defenses, but grew impatient in the second half. 

Most of ASU's offensive troubles have come from the constant zone defenses it faces. Oregon's 2-3 zone was no different.

They attacked gaps to draw fouls, drove baseline to find teammates open on the opposite corner and prevented the Ducks from setting up their zone using their fast break during the first half.

A prime example of this happened at the 10:13 mark in the first half.

With ASU ahead by one, Justice drove baseline and forced the defense to shift towards him as he found Holder on the opposite corner for a three-pointer. It gave the Sun Devils a 20-16 lead. 

Two possessions later, Evans II received the ball at the three-point line during a fast break, jabbed stepped to create space, and knocked down the jumper before the defense was able to set up. It gave ASU the 23-18 lead and sparked a 11-0 run to help extend its lead to 31-18.

But Oregon head coach Dana Altman has an impressive resume and has experience overcoming deficits – in this case, a 13-point margin. 

With ASU showing flashes of taking over the game, Oregon quietly turned a 13-point deficit into a tie game. They used a 14-2 run, led by redshirt senior guard Elijah Brown’s two three-pointers to tie the game at 41 heading into halftime. He finished with 18 points.

The momentum shift favored Oregon for the majority of the second half, as it did not surrender its lead from the 10:35 mark moving forward. ASU lost patience against the zone, put up shots earlier in the shot clock and failed to consistently feed its big men in the post. 

“We are searching for the balance that we need,” Hurley said. “We have to get some production, whether it’s the guards getting to the rim and finishing, or throwing it inside to Melo [Romello White] and De’Quon. … We are just not getting enough production in the lane right now.”

After Justice nailed a three and Evans II connected with De’Quon Lake for an alley-oop dunk to shrink the lead by three with 3:09 left to play, 68-65, Oregon grabbed an offensive rebound, laid it up, then Brown turned a steal into a breakaway dunk to extend its lead to seven with less than two minutes left in the game. 

The Sun Devils tried to make a late push and came within two with 17.5 seconds left, but sophomore guard Payton Pritchard knocked down his late free throws and knocked out the home team. He finished with 18 points as well. 

Up next

No. 11 ASU vs. Oregon State

When: Saturday, Jan. 13 at 4 p.m. MST

Where: Wells Fargo Arena

TV: Pac-12 Network


Reach the reporter at fcorral1@asu.edu or follow @felipecorraljr on Twitter.  

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