ASU men's basketball hit timely shots and came up with key stops to defeat Washington State 64-59 in the first round of the Pac-12 Men's Basketball Tournament on Wednesday in Las Vegas, advancing to the second round.
The Sun Devils forced four turnovers in the final 2:28 of the game, scoring 10 points in that span. They held the Cougars to just two points in the final two minutes.
Both teams struggled offensively in the first half, as both combined to make only two 3-pointers. Neither team shot better than 36.7% from the field in the period.
Washington State senior guard Isaac Bonton led all scorers with eight points in the first half. Senior guard Alonzo Verge Jr. and senior forward Kimani Lawrence led ASU with seven points apiece in the period.
Despite forcing 10 first-half turnovers, ASU led by only one point at halftime.
The second half went back-and-forth between the two teams, mainly between Bonton and Verge Jr.
Bonton scored 11 second-half points, finishing with 19 total, while Verge Jr. scored 19 second-half points, finishing with a season-high 26.
Trailing by one point with 11 seconds left in the game, Verge Jr. drove into the paint, hitting a floater to give ASU the lead. Sophomore guard Jaelen House then stole the ball on Washington State's next possession, leading to him and Verge Jr. each hitting two free throws, securing the victory for ASU.
Verge Jr. said playing basketball at the junior college level prepared him to take the late-game shots he has knocked down while at ASU.
"I've always been that type of player to just make difficult, weird shots," Verge Jr. said. "When you put in the work, you just trust the results."
ASU forced 20 turnovers and scored 22 points off of turnovers in the contest. ASU head coach Bobby Hurley said the aggressive defense his team has played all year has been its "bread and butter" for success.
"Our guards are unselfish with their energy at that end of the floor," Hurley said. "I think our runs are getting better on the back-end of our defense where if there is a breakdown, we're doing far better at providing help in the paint and closing out the shooters."
Lawrence was the only other Sun Devil to score in double digits, and senior guard Remy Martin finished with six points.
Coming off consecutive losses to Utah and Colorado to end the regular season, Hurley said he was proud of how his team competed.
"They were giving me a good vibe of wanting to compete, wanting to try and win a championship, and then we showed up," Hurley said. "They really gave a hell of an effort on both ends of the court."
ASU will face off against No. 1 seed Oregon in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 Men's Basketball Tournament on March 11 at 12:30 p.m. MST in Las Vegas.
Continue supporting student journalism and donate to The State Press today.