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ASU men's basketball hangs on to beat Stanford

ASU senior forward Shaquielle McKissic shoots a 3-pointer against Stanford center Stefan Nastic at the ASU vs. Stanford basketball game at the Wells Fargo Arena on March 5, 2015. McKissic would drain the 3-pointer and had a team leading 23 points. (Daniel Kwon/The State Press)
ASU senior forward Shaquielle McKissic shoots a 3-pointer against Stanford center Stefan Nastic at the ASU vs. Stanford basketball game at the Wells Fargo Arena on March 5, 2015. McKissic would drain the 3-pointer and had a team leading 23 points. (Daniel Kwon/The State Press)

ASU senior forward Shaquielle McKissic shoots a 3-pointer against Stanford center Stefan Nastic at the ASU vs. Stanford basketball game at the Wells Fargo Arena on March 5, 2015. McKissic would drain the 3-pointer and had a team leading 23 points. (Daniel Kwon/The State Press) ASU senior forward Shaquielle McKissic shoots a 3-pointer against Stanford center Stefan Nastic at the ASU vs. Stanford basketball game at the Wells Fargo Arena on March 5, 2015. McKissic would drain the 3-pointer and had a team leading 23 points. (Daniel Kwon/The State Press)

With the season closing fast, the ASU men's basketball team is entering every game with a must-win attitude. That attitude shined through Thursday night as the team took care of business at home.

The Sun Devils (16-14, 8-9 Pac-12) took down Stanford 67-62 behind a superb effort from senior forward Shaquielle McKissic, who scored 23 points in the win, once point away from his career high.

From the start, ASU struggled with fouls, accruing five before the first media timeout. Junior forward Eric Jacobsen and sophomore forward Savon Goodman were in foul trouble for most of the day and had to sit for extended periods of time, which hamstrung ASU's interior defense and allowed Stanford to rebound 48 percent of its shots.

The Sun Devils, after struggling offensively and on the defensive glass for the majority of the first half, exploded in the final 8 minutes. After trailing 13-11 with 8:43 left, ASU outscored the Cardinal 26-10 for the remainder of the first half.

During the half-ending run, Sendek was more fiery than usual on the bench. He was waving for the crowd to get louder and screaming for most of the half and for the rest of the game. He said that it's easy to get caught up in the effort his guys were giving and wanted the crowd to help out.

Video by Marc Steiner | Sports Reporter

"That's what our team needed tonight," Sendek said. "I wanted the fans to appreciate the effort our guys were giving. Give us the best home court possible. You're right, I was (more passionate than usual). I need a shower."

"When you see him happy like that, it uplifts you," McKissic said. "We definitely needed that spark going into this game."

Despite the spark Sendek gave ASU, the Cardinal opened the second half hot. With Jacobsen and Goodman sitting with four fouls early on in the second half, Stanford was able to tie the game briefly with 10:38 remaining in the game.

That was when McKissic took over for ASU. In the final 10 minutes, McKissic scored nine of his 23 points and had two steals, including one with 32 seconds left that helped ice the game. He said his gameplan was, and usually is, to drive and make something happen close to the basket as often as possible.

Video by Marc Steiner | Sports Reporter

"Coach was telling me don't settle for three, even if it is open," McKissic said. "(He told me) to drive the ball and jump stop and look for the open man or look for the shot."

Sendek echoed McKissic's statements saying that no matter who ASU is playing against or what the defensive system is, it is always best for McKissic to attack.

"I always encourage Shaq to take it to the basket," Sendek said. "The thing about our offense, man or zone, it doesn't matter, we do what we do and Shaq is always best when he's able to get in the paint and make some things happen and he had some great drives there in the second half."

Both Goodman and Jacobsen played a majority of the end of the game and did not foul out.

"I'd like them to stay out of foul trouble," Sendek said. "That would be significant growth."

With the win, ASU is still alive for the fifth seed in the Pac-12 Tournament next week, but Sendek said that he's not focused on next week yet, only his team's next opponent.

"Our seed is irrelevant," Sendek said. "I don't even want to look at those standings. I want to focus on Cal."

The Sun Devils will play the Golden Bears Saturday afternoon on Senior Day, when ASU will honor ts three graduating players.

Reach the reporter at mtonis@asu.edu or follow @Tonis_The_Tiger on Twitter.

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