Cardinal survive wild finish to topple Sun Devils 84-83 in season finale

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By Daniel Dullum
Sports Radio Service
Saturday, March 3, 2018

TEMPE, Ariz. – Playing in the Pac-12’s version of a home-away-from-home game, Phoenix native Dorian Pickens torched the Arizona State Sun Devils (20-10, 8-10 Pac-12) with 20 second-half points as the Stanford Cardinal (17-14, 11-7 Pac-12) hung on for a wild 84-83 win at Wells Fargo Arena on Saturday afternoon.

“It was one of those things where (the emotions of coming back home) doesn’t really hit you until after the game,” said Pickens, a former Pinnacle High School graduate. “In the pregame, I’m just thinking about my teammates and trying to get the win. We were able to do that and my teammates helped send me out the right way.”

“It felt great to be able to come back home and come out of it with a victory. I had a lot of people here, maybe 20, 25, a lot of friends and family, and all of the above!”

On his offensive exploits in the second half, Pickens said, “I just wanted to be more aggressive, around the perimeter, especially.”

“He’s just a big-time player,” Cardinal Coach Jerod Haase said of Pickens. “It’s not really a surprise, but a great feeling to see him do that, especially at home in front of family and friends.”

“To win on the road against a team like (ASU) meant a lot.”

Reid Travis scored 24 points (8-of-14 field goals) and grabbed 14 of Stanford’s 45 rebounds. Kezie Okpala added 18 points and 10 boards for the Cardinal, who hit 51 percent (27-of-53) from the field.

Going into Saturday’s regular season finale, Travis was averaging 22.3 points and 10.0 rebounds in his last four games.

Travis described the final five minutes as “hectic. I wish we would have taken care of the ball a little bit more, but we got stops when we needed to, so I couldn’t be happier with the way we finished out the game.”

The victory gave Stanford a shot at finishing in the top four of the Pac-12 standings and a first-round bye in the conference’s upcoming postseason tournament in Las Vegas.

“In the non-conference, we battled and stuck together, which was really cool,” Haase said. “After the loss at home to Cal, our team has done some nice things. I think there’s still a long way to go with our quality of play, but the mental side, the competitiveness, is really cool to see as a coach.”

“Regardless of where we wind up, we’re going into (the Pac-12 tournament) excited.”

The Sun Devils, who struggled in conference play after a blazing start, look for redemption in the Pac-12 tournament. Tra Holder led ASU’s balanced attack with 19 points, followed by Shannon Evans II with 17 and 14 points each by Kodi Justice and Remy Martin.

Holder, Evans and Justice each hit three 3-pointers as the Devils were 10-of-27 behind the arc.

“This game is who we are,” ASU Coach Bobby Hurley said. “We have an amazing will to win, and character. The make the plays we made and claw our way back, we gave ourselves a chance to win.”

“I love my chances with the group I have against whoever we play in the postseason in Vegas and in the NCAA tournament.”

The Cardinal led by 19 points less than four minutes into the second half after opening the half with a 15-1 run after leading 40-35 at the break. But with basketball being a game of runs, Arizona State battled back with a 16-4 run, capped by Kimani Lawrence’s layup at 12:45, pulling the Devils to within 59-54.

“In 20 or 18 minutes against a team like this, there was never a comfort level at all,” Haase said. “Our guys stayed steadfast, continued to score on the offensive end, and we got enough stops on defense.”

Hurley said, “We got behind and always fought to get back in it. I thought the difference in the game could be as simple as the last four minutes of the first half, and we had empty possessions where we didn’t make shots that we usually make.”

“To start the second half, we didn’t have enough energy and (Stanford) was able to generate the lead that they did.”

Over the next three minutes, the Cardinal pushed their lead back to 11 on a Pickens 3-pointer, but ASU battled back again. Kodi Justice drained a 3 with 3:05 to play as the Sun Devils used a 5-minute, 16-7 run to cut their deficit to 79-77.

Another 3-pointer by Justice with 1:13 remaining tied the game at 82-82, but Arizona State could never surge ahead while both teams struggled at the free throw line down the stretch.

Daejon Davis, playing with four fouls, hit a jumper at :42 to break the deadlock, and on the ensuing possession, Justice missed a pair of free throws with :20 left. Two seconds later, Pickens missed two free throws, and after Josh Sharma missed a layup, Justice sank 1-of-2 foul shots to cut Stanford’s lead to 84-83 with 5 seconds remaining.

“Daejon has done so many great things throughout the year and he made a key basket late again,” Haase said. “For a freshman, he has a level of poise and calmness about him that, I think, spreads to the rest of the team.”

After Travis turned the ball over on an inbound play, ASU had one final possession, but Martin missed a short jumper as time expired.

“We made some mistakes, but they made some too,” Haase said. “There were some tough shots, some tough 3s. I thought we played with a great deal of poise and I thought this game would have a lot of ebbs and flows. And it did.”

The Pac-12 Tournament starts Wednesday in Las Vegas.

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