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ASU men's basketball plays at UCONN to kick off NIT


ASU freshman guard drives towards the basket against Cal at Well's Fargo Arena in Tempe in March 7. The Sun Devils won 74-70 on Senior Day.  (J. Bauer-Leffler/The State Press) ASU freshman guard drives towards the basket against Cal at Well's Fargo Arena in Tempe in March 7. The Sun Devils won 74-70 on Senior Day. (J. Bauer-Leffler/The State Press)

After a disappointing trip to Las Vegas for the Pac-12 Tournament, the ASU men's basketball team is on the road to start its postseason.

The Sun Devils (17-15, 9-9 Pac-12) will travel to Storrs, Connecticut, to face off against UCONN in the first round of the NIT at 4 p.m. Arizona time. ASU has won just two games away from Tempe this year.

ASU's postseason started with a result that not many were expecting. After leading by 15 points halfway through the second half, the Sun Devils allowed USC to go on a 21-4 run to steal the win to advance to the second day of the Pac-12 Tournament.

The Huskies (20-14, 10-8 American) finished their season eight points away from an upset victory in the AAC championship game against Southern Methodist that would have earned them a trip back to the NCAA tournament.

A season after going all the way, UCONN was consistently in games, but had trouble closing. Ten of the Huskies' 14 losses were by single digits and five were by three points or fewer, showing that this team had what it takes to make a deep run again, if only it was luckier.

On the other side, UCONN appears to once again be peaking at the right time. The stellar backcourt of senior guard Ryan Boatright nearly carried his team back to the tournament, but was banged up for the entirety of the conference championship game and UCONN fell just short.

Boatright will be a featured part of the most important match ups Wednesday. The stud backcourt duo of Boatright and sophomore Rodney Purvis will try to carry the Huskies and will have to outduel freshman guard Tra Holder and junior guard Gerry Blakes to do so.

On the stat sheet, it looks like an easy win for the Huskies, since their guards average more points than ASU's guards do. On the plus side for the Sun Devils, Holder has improved drastically and had some of his best games when matched up with the Pac-12's elite and Blakes has a flair for the dramatic that he showed in the latter part of the season.

The Sun Devils will need to be stout defensively against the dynamic backcourt of the Huskies and be strong on the defensive boards to prevent Boatright from heating up like he is capable of doing to have the best chance of winning.

The game tips off at approximately 4 p.m. on ESPN2. The winner will go on to face either Richmond or St. Francis Brooklyn in the round of 16.

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

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