TEMPE, Ariz. — It was the best home victory in Arizona State history in terms of the opponent’s ranking, and it was certainly one of the most celebrated. The floor was covered in maroon and gold afterward.
And the implications of ASU’s 69-66 double-overtime triumph over No. 2 Arizona at Wells Fargo Arena on Friday are even bigger. The victory should be enough to put the Sun Devils (19-6, 8-4) in the NCAA tournament, providing they stay in present form for the final three weeks of the Pac-12 regular season.
"No words can explain the joy that we feel right now," ASU center Jordan Bachynski said. "I mean, that is huge for us, for our resume, for our goals of the postsesaon tournament. Tonight was huge for us."
No one played as huge as 6-foot-4 shooting guard Jermaine Marshall, who missed Arizona’s 91-68 victory in Tucson in the first meeting this season because of a strained groin muscle. He was the difference Friday.
Marshall had a game-high 29 points, and he made three shots down the stretch in regulation to force overtime, where the Sun Devils eventually earned their sixth victory in seven games. After Arizona took a 63-59 lead on two driving layups by Aaron Gordon, Marshall made 3-pointers on the next two possessions around a pair of free throws by Kaleb Tarczewski. The second trey tied the game at 65-65 and came after Jordan Bachynski set a screen on the high left wing. Bachynski had freed Marshall on the previous 3 from the right wing as well.
Then, after a Gordon free throw, Marshall hit a driving layup in the lane for a 67-66 lead with 14.7 seconds remaining.
All three plays were similar to the one ASU coach Herb Sendek called in the last seconds at California on Jan. 29, when Marshall hit a 3-pointer from the right wing with 17 seconds remaining to send the game into overtime. The Sun Devils won that game 89-78.
"Same play. It’s great, because he trusts me," Marshall said about being called on in late-game situations. "He does give me that responsibility, and I do feel that it is my job as a senior … to take care of it. I thank God I have been able to be successful."
Arizona (23-2, 10-2) had a final chance in final regulation, as T.J. McConnell drove the lane for a short left-handed shot, but Bachynski — the Pac-12’s career blocks leader — swatted it away near the top of its trajectory. As McConnell made a motion with his hands as if it should have been goaltending, Jahii Carson took it the other way for a dunk with 0.7 seconds left.
Thinking the game was over, ASU fans stormed the floor but had to be escorted back into the stands because time remained on the clock. It took about five minutes to clear the floor, and after order was restored, Nick Johnson’s 45-foot heave from just inside the midcourt line on the right side hit the front of the rim and bounced off.
Carson had 17 points and six assists while Bachynski had 13 points, seven rebounds and eight blocked shots. Bachynski has 24 blocked shots in his last three games and has 115 this season, moving into a tie with former ASU center Mario Bennett for second in Pac-12 single-season history. Bachynski set the Pac-12 season record last year with 120 last year.
"That’s what I do. That’s what I love doing, and that’s what I’m good at," Bachynski said.
He saw the last one coming.
"After Jermaine made the layup and we were getting back on defense, I knew there wasn’t much time on the clock, and I really did say to myself, ‘Big block. Big block.’ Like I knew they were going to try for a layup, because they needed it and that would be the easiest thing. I saw them come right down the middle and I hustled over and I jumped.
"I felt it was a little bit late, but I must have got it right at the peak. Just an amazing feeling."
Arizona had a 54-35 rebounding edge but hurt itself by shooting only 35.9 percent from the field and making only 16 of 30 free throws. Tarczewski and Aaron Gordon had double-doubles, Tarczewski with 13 points and 13 rebounds and Goardon with 13 and 10. Tarczewski went 7 of 10 from the free-throw line, but Gordon, who entered the game shooting 41.8 percent from the stripe, was just 3 of 8. McConnell missed both his tries, and Johnson was 3 of 6.
As poor as those numbers have been, Marshall has been just as good for ASU. Starting with the Cal game, he has 22, 22, 25, 12 and 29 points while going 16 of 36 from 3-point range.
"Jermaine is just incredible," Sendek said. "It just seems like the bigger the moment, regardless of whatâs happened previously, he has an amazing capacity to make a big play, to be at his best when the game is on the line."
ASU has not played in the NCAA tournament since 2009, and the players have said that the season will not be a success unless they make it. At the same time, they are vowing not to look too far ahead.
"I don’t know if ‘relief’ is the right word, because if we don’t take care of business over the next couple of weeks, we won’t get to the tournament," Bachynski said. "We have to act like we need every game, like we are still on the bubble.
"We can’t let this win get to our head. As great as it feels right now and as much fun as it was winning, we have to keep our eyes on the prize."