ASU’s tournament hopes take a hit in loss

TEMPE, Ariz. – For the second time this season, Arizona State could not find a way to keep Washington off the backboards. This time, it could have lasting effects.
Washington used a 13-rebound advantage and strong shooting from secondary scorers Abdul Gaddy and Scott Suggs for a 68-59 Pac-12 victory on senior night before 10,004 at Wells Fargo, a loss that gives Arizona State an unexpectedly steeper mountain to climb as it attempts to make its first NCAA tournament since 2009.
ASU (20-8, 9-6) was one of the last teams the 68-team field according to one of the computer generated faux brackets after getting its 20th victory Wednesday, but instead of becoming the fourth 10-win Pac-12 team now faces an uphill battle to gain one of the four first-round byes in the Pac-12 tournament in two weeks.
“I think we’ll be OK. I think we just need to get back to the drawing board and get back to doing the little things,” said forward Carrick Felix, one of the four ASU seniors who were honored before the game.
“Definitely we probably would have solidified it (NCAA berth) with this win, but now we have an even bigger test. We have three away games versus the better Pac-12 teams. We just have to make sure we take care of business on that, or our NCAA hopes are gone.”
The Sun Devils, in fifth place, play UCLA, USC and Arizona on the road to close out the regular season, although they did beat both Los Angeles schools here earlier this year.
The Huskies swept Arizona State this season, losses that will work against the Sun Devils’ NCAA chances, and they won both games the same way, dominating the glass and coming away with second-chance points.
Washington (15-13, 7-8) had 14 second-chance points Saturday and built a 13-point lead with 11-plus minutes left in the second half before holding on. It had a 36-20 rebounding edge and scored 50 points in the paint in the first meeting, a 96-92 victory in Seattle on Feb. 2.
“They have a bunch of gorillas, a bunch of athletic guys who go get it. They definitely offensive rebound, I can tell you that, and they did a hell of a job of it,” Felix said. “I think we match up well with them. I think they were on tonight, hitting their shots and getting second-chances points.”
Jahii Carson had a season-high 32 points in the first game but was held to 10 on Saturday on 3-for-14 shooting while being guarded most of the game by Gaddy. Ruslan Pateev, a senior who started his first game of the season on senior night, and Evan Gordon also scored 10. Jonathan Gilling, who had a season-high 22 points and made six threes in Seattle, had eight points and made one three.
Gaddy and Suggs, who combined for 29 points on 12-of-19 shooting, shot over and around ASU defenders. Suggs made 4 of 6 3-point attempts, a season high in makes. Gaddy had scored more than 13 points only twice before in league games, and he added seven assists and five rebounds. He matched up against Carson most of the last game.
“I just tried to play with a chip on my shoulder and be very tough and make it very tough for him. He’s a great player in this league, his speed coming off ball screens, I was trying to make it as tough as possible on him,” Gaddy said.
Seven-foot center Aziz N’Diaye had only four points but had 10 of the Huskies’ 35 rebounds, 14 on the offensive end. The Huskies missed 28 field goal attempts but got the ball back on 14 of them.
Freshman big man Eric Jacobsen gave the Sun Devils some good minutes when he entered in an attempt to provide some post presence with 10 minutes remaining, after Washington had taken a 53-41 lead.
Jacobsen draw two fouls on Washington players with strong screens, drew a charging foul on the other end and followed those possessions with a layup on a Carson feed to start a comeback that eventually got Arizona State within one point on his tip-in of a Carson miss with 3:44 left. It was 57-56, and the momentum was all on the Sun Devils’ side.
Arizona State had the ball and a chance to tie only once thereafter, as the Huskies made six three throws down the stretch around baskets by Gaddy and Suggs. Gaddy’s 18-footer made it 61-56 with 1:43 left, and Suggs’ three on the next possession after a Gaddy penetrate and dish made it 64-58 with 34.3 seconds left.
“Eric certainly was a silver lining for us. One thing about him, he is a physical presence that we don’t have,” ASU coach Herb Sendek said.
Sendek was asked about the NCAA tournament.
“I don’t handicap it. I don’t study it. Tonight didn’t help us, I know that much,” he said.