ASU comes up just short in first Pac-12 loss
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Arizona State supplied further evidence that it will be a Pac-12 contender Sunday. Jahii Carson sliced up the Oregon defense. Evan Gordon regained his shot. And Carrick Felix harassed Ducks leading scorer E.J. Singler into submission.
About the only thing lacking was a victory.
Felix missed a rushed 3-pointer in the final second and Oregon used some timely free throw shooting and second-chance baskets down the stretch to come away with a 68-65 victory at Matthew Knight Arena, the Sun Devils' first conference loss of the season after a victory at Oregon State on Thursday.
"We came on this road trip to get two, which most people would probably say that is too lofty for this group. But I don't think so. Their play demonstrated that they belong. They thought they deserved to win the game tonight. We just didn't make enough plays down the stretch to make that happen," ASU assistant coach Dedrique Taylor said in a postgame radio interview.
"We have to keep the momentum. We did some good things up here in Oregon."
ASU (14-3, 3-1) will face a momentum-tester in its next game, Saturday afternoon against No. 4 Arizona (15-1, 3-1) in what already is a sellout at Wells Fargo Arena.
They have been near-mirror images of each other in the first two weeks of conference play. Both swept home series Colorado and Utah to open league play before splitting in Oregon, beating the Beavers and falling to Ducks. ASU and Arizona beat the Beavers by 10. Oregon beat the Sun Devils by three points and the Wildcats by four. The teams split home games last season, with ASU winning in Wells Fargo on the final day of the regular season.
"That's going to be a battle of two teams trying to establish themselves as not only the in-state power but also in our conference," Taylor said.
Carson (20 points), Gordon (17) and Felix (12) helped ASU recover from a 49-43 deficit in the final 10 minutes while having a hand in all of the Sun Devils final 22 points. Gordon scored seven straight points to give ASU a 56-53 lead with 6 ½ minutes remaining, hitting a 3-pointer from the right wing before stealing a pass on an Oregon inbounds play and hit a 16-footer on the other end after taking a pass from Carson and pump-faking his defender into the air to get around him for a shorter shot.
ASU forced another turnover and Gordon completed the run when he made a reverse layup after taking a quick pass from Carson, who also had four assists and a team-high seven rebounds.
But the Ducks' next three field goals were on second-chance opportunities. Felix gave the Sun Devils' their last lead, 60-59, on a 3-pointer from the left side of the key with 2:08 remaining before the Ducks went ahead when Tony Woods knocked down Jonathan Gilling on the way to a slam dunk with 1:44 left.
Oregon (14-2, 3-0) made seven free throws in the final 58.5 seconds and the Sun Devils could not regain the lead despite two Carson two baskets in the last 40 seconds, one a six-foot floater in the lane and the last on a 23-foot 3-pointer with 7.1 seconds left that made the score 67-65.
ASU grabbed E.J. Singler when he caught the inbounds pass with 5.4 seconds remaining, and Singler made the first free throw before missing the second, the Ducks' only miss from the foul line in 15 attempts. Gilling got the rebound and pushed the ball upcourt before passing to Felix, who lost control of the ball as it came to him and had to re-catch and shoot in the same motion. The ball did not draw iron, and the Ducks had their 18th consecutive home victory.
"They had some offensive rebounds that were timely for them and very untimely for us. Down the stretch, they went up and made some plays and we didn't. That was the difference in the game right there," Taylor said.
ASU limited Oregon to a 40.7 field goal percentage in large part because of the job Felix did on Singler, who had 14 points, seven assists and seven rebounds when the Ducks handed Arizona its first loss of the season, 70-66, on Thursday.
Singler was mobbed by the crowd at center court Thursday. Felix got in his way Sunday. Singler had seven points and was 1-of-9 from the field, his only basket coming on a contested 17-footer from the key just more than six minutes into the game. The rest of his points came on free throws, and he had three turnovers. Woods, Carlos Emory and freshman Damyean Dotson led the Ducks with 14 points apiece.
Felix's throttling was one of several positives ASU could take away.
"It was good to see Evan kind of come out of his shell and put some points on the board. I thought he did some good things defensively. They are a tough guard, because of the way they cut, the way they play, the way that they move the ball. They play at a pace that is unique to our conference. They do a good job of it, and I thought our guys did a good job of responding," Taylor said.