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ASU men's basketball seeks to finish regular season strong

Senior forward Shaquielle McKissic dunks the ball in a game against UCLA on Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2015, at Wells Fargo Arena in Tempe. The Sun Devils defeated the Bruins 68-66. (Ben Moffat/The State Press)
Senior forward Shaquielle McKissic dunks the ball in a game against UCLA on Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2015, at Wells Fargo Arena in Tempe. The Sun Devils defeated the Bruins 68-66. (Ben Moffat/The State Press)

Senior forward Shaquielle McKissic dunks the ball in a game against UCLA on Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2015, at Wells Fargo Arena in Tempe. The Sun Devils defeated the Bruins 68-66. (Ben Moffat/The State Press) Senior forward Shaquielle McKissic dunks the ball in a game against UCLA on Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2015, at Wells Fargo Arena in Tempe. The Sun Devils defeated the Bruins 68-66. (Ben Moffat/The State Press)

The ASU men's basketball team (15-14, 7-9 Pac-12) will play its second to last regular season game against Stanford before playing California on Saturday, and afterward will travel to Las Vegas to take part in the Pac–12 tournament.

In their previous bout back in January this season, ASU fell to Stanford (18-10, 9-7 Pac-12) 89-70 in California. A massive scoring contribution from Stanford’s seniors was a big part of the victory over the Sun Devils, with senior guards Chasson Randle and Anthony Brown lighting up the scoreboard with 21 points, and a 20-point performance from senior center Stefan Nastic.

These seniors will be on the radar of ASU.

Randle leads his team in points averaging 19.4 per game, steals with 41 on the season. Randle also leads his team in assists, averaging 3.1 per game, and free throw percentage, shooting a very respectable 90.7 percent.

Brown averages 15.2 points per game, while managing to grab 7.3 rebounds per game. He also averages 2.8 assists per game, the second highest on his team after Randle. Brown also leads his team in 3-point shooting percentage, averaging 45 percent from beyond the arc.

Nastic averages 13.6 points per game, the lowest of the three scoring seniors on the team, but leads his team in blocks, with a whopping 30 recorded thus far this season. Nastic is also the second leading rebounder on the team, averaging 6.6 boards per game.

With such a high-octane offensive team on their plate, ASU coach Herb Sendek emphasizes the importance of defense in order to counter Stanford’s ability to score.

“It always is a big emphasis, but needless to say we have not been as good as we need to be on that end of the floor,” Sendek said. “You could look at our numbers and they reflect that. That doesn't mean at times we have been really good on defense. But for the way this team is built, we need to be able to sustain better defense. We need to continue to improve in that area. We have several teams, many teams, all teams, in our league that each present their own challenge in that. Stanford is no different. It's easy to emphasize defense but they could really score the ball. They do against a lot of people.”

Senior forward Jonathan Gilling supports the need for ASU to be mindful of who it is facing and stresses the importance of defense.

“We have to play good defense, because Stanford is a really good offensive team, so we definitely have to play defense.” Gilling said.

Senior guard Bo Barnes is optimistic about the remainder of the season.

“Anything can happen in March,” Barnes said. “It’s good to finish these games out strong, get some momentum, and hopefully continue to play well in the Pac–12 tournament.”

Senior forward Shaquielle McKissic also wants to go out on a high note.

“We have to go undefeated,” Mckissic said. “We can’t lose a game from here on out. I’m looking forward to it. I really want to beat Stanford. God, I really want to.”

ASU will honor its own seniors on Saturday, during senior night. The Sun Devils have three seniors this season: McKissic, Barnes and Gilling.

The Sun Devils host Stanford at 9 p.m. Thursday.

 

Reach the reporter at mtsteine@asu.edu or follow @MarcTSteiner on Twitter

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