Resilient ASU stops Cal to avoid second-half collapse
Arizona State guard Jermaine Marshall put his right index finger to his lips to shush the Haas Pavilion crowd after his 3-pointer pulled the Sun Devils even with California in the final 17 seconds of regulation Wednesday night.
He was premature.
But he was not wrong.
ASU scored 14 of the first 16 points in overtime to put away Cal 89-78, a victory that served to reinforce the team’s belief in its place among the Pac-12 elite. It also is the kind of road victory — it was Cal’s first home loss of the season — that can mean something on Selection Sunday.
ASU (16-5, 5-3) won its third straight game and pulled into a tie with the Bears (14-7, 5-3) for third place in the conference. The Sun Devils’ conference losses were to league leaders No. 1 Arizona, UCLA — both on the road — and to Washington at home.
"We came back from UCLA and Arizona and sat down as a team and spoke about this stretch of games and how important they are," Marshall said in a postgame radio interview.
"Guys really bought in the last couple of weeks. We knew we had to get better on defense, and I think it is showing. We want to get to the (NCAA) tournament. We feel like if we don’t, the season is a let down. Guys are going to keep pushing, and that’s our goal."
Marshall and Jahii Carson did what they could to keep the Sun Devils on track as they prepare for a Saturday game at Stanford (13-7, 4-4), which took Arizona into the final minute before losing, 60-57, on Wednesday.
The two have formed a nice rhythm in their first season together, and it showed in the play that sent the game into overtime. Marshall came off a baseline screen set by center Jordan Bachynski and moved through to the right wing as Carson penetrated toward the basket. Carson then flipped the ball back to Marshall, whose 3-pointer was his third of the game.
"We run it (play) a lot, actually. Sometimes I don’t get open and sometimes I do," Marshall said. "Jordan set a great screen to get me open, and Jahii found me on-time, on-target, and I was able to knock it down. I was talking to Jahii the other day and said ‘We need this win. Let’s come back to the hotel room happy.’"
Carson had 29 points, including a 3-pointer for the first basket of overtime to give ASU a lead it never lost. Following a Cal basket, Eric Jacobsen dropped in a layup after a Bachynski feed to begin a 12-0 run that put the game away. Carson made eight free throws in overtime, and he also had seven assists.
"That’s the type of player he is," Marshall said of Carson. "He’s a next-level guy. We need him to be like that every night. He’s a great player, a great point guard and a great leader, and I think he showed that tonight."
Marshall, who missed the Arizona game Jan. 16 with a strained groin and was not fully recovered when ASU swept Utah and Colorado last week, finished with 22 points, six rebounds and three assists. McKissic had 12 points and six rebounds.
ASU had a 39-32 rebounding edge and made 9-of-19 3-pointers, with Bo Barnes hitting two and Jonathan Gilling one off the bench, and build a 16-point lead when Gilling made three free throws for a 48-32 lead three possessions into the second half. Cal kept coming behind Cobbs (21 points), Tyrone Wallace (20) and David Kravish (16). Cobbs’ layup gave the Bears a 70-69 lead with 44.8 seconds remaining, their first lead since 3-2, and Kravish’s two free throws stretched it to 72-69 with 25.2 seconds left.
"We came back and showed some heart in OT," Marshall said. "We let up a little bit in the second half and that allowed them to come back.
ASU also showed its flexibility. Bachynski played only 22 minutes because of foul trouble, but the Sun Devils regrouped when necessary by using a smaller-than-small lineup that included five perimeter players, with 6-foot-7 Gilling the tallest man on the floor. It is the first time they had gone that small this season. With Carson penetrating and scoring/kicking, ASU made the spacing and quickness work to its advantage while building its lead.
Cal assigned Kravish to cover Carson, but when Carson got past him at the perimeter, ASU got open looks. Barnes hit a 3-pointer from the right wing off a Carson feed for a 20-12 lead midway through the first half, and two driving layups by Carson and another by Barnes made it 26-18. Barnes’ 3-pointer from the left wing off a Carson feed made it 33-23, and consecutive baskets by Marshall on a post-up bank shot and a 3-pointer from the right wing after a Carson pass made it 38-27. McKissic’s layup and dunk gave ASU a 42-30 halftime lead.
Jahii Carson again shone bright on the road. Carson’s five highest-scoring games have come away from Tempe after getting his 29-point night Wednesday. He scored a career-high 40 points at UNLV earlier this season and had three 30-plus games last year.
82.1 — Jordan Bachynski’s free throw percentage in Pac-12 play after he made both attempts against Cal. He is 32-of-39 in seven conference games.
— Bo Barnes made two more 3-pointers and had eight points in 18 minutes, mostly in the first half. Barnes, whose hustle earned him more playing time, has 37 points in 82 minutes in the last four games. Barnes played 78 minutes last season.
— Shaquille McKissic played another strong floor game with three assists and three steals. He also covered Justin Cobbs most of the second half after Jahii Carson got into foul trouble, and stole the ball from Cobbs with two minutes left with ASU up four. Cobbs sprawled on the court and tripped McKissic after the play, but somehow avoided a foul as McKissic was called for traveling.
— How valuable was Jonathan Gilling when first Jordan Bachynski and then Eric Jacobsen got into early foul trouble? Gilling was plus-17 in his 38 minutes on the floor, the highest plus-minus on the team. Gilling had seven points, six rebounds and two assists.
Because of his limited playing time, Jordan Bachynski had one blocked shot to move his career total to 270, eight short of former Arizona center Anthony Cook’s Pac-12 record. Bachynski averages a little more than four blocks a game and is on pace to break the mark against the Oregon schools next week.