TEMPE — Arizona State basketball dropped a third straight game in Pac-12 play, falling 71-62 to Stanford on Thursday at Desert Financial Arena.
Coming off its first 0-2 week against conference foes, ASU needed to get back on track in a big way. Not only did the Sun Devils get swept on their Oregon trip by the Ducks and Beavers but the 1-4 record over the prior five games is the worst five-game stretch of the season for Bobby Hurley’s group.
ASU started hot from beyond the arc with Jose Perez hitting a 3-pointer on the opening possession. Jamiya Neal followed, making his first two attempts, forcing an early Stanford timeout.
The Sun Devils tried to keep the hot 3-point shooting alive but made just three of their next 15 tries as Stanford got back into the thick of it.
After the game, Hurley told reporters, “When you’re playing (a bigger defense like Stanford), you gotta be able to make some shots to try and stretch the defense, to open up driving lanes for someone … and we weren’t able to do any of those things.”
Later in the half, Hurley was called for a technical foul after his frustration with Adam Miller’s intentional foul in transition. Stanford hit three of the four ensuing free throws, taking a two-point lead in the process.
Much of the half was a struggle offensively, but point guard Frankie Collins ended the half on a good note for Arizona State finishing a dunk through traffic on its last possession, leading 33-29.
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After Stanford opened the second half on a 12-2 run, Perez got the offense back on track with a transition bucket and added free throw. While Collins missed all three of his 3-point attempts in the first half, his first of the second went down to tie the game at 45, and Miller gave the Sun Devils a lead on a free throw shortly after.
Collins and the Sun Devils turned up the press defense and turned a 51-50 lead into 58-52 in less than a minute, spurred on by a high-flying finish by Neal.
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ASU went cold after that run as Stanford forced the Sun Devils into more of a halfcourt game, trailing by one with just over three minutes to play. That bigger defense Hurley alluded to forced ASU into a scoring drought which lasted more than six minutes.
It didn’t help that center Shawn Phillips Jr. was cut near his eye with about six minutes left when the Sun Devils still had the lead, and Hurley said his absence late played a part in ASU relinquishing its lead.
“Shawn had it going in that second half stretch until he got cut and had to go out,” Hurley said.
Phillips finished with six points and two blocks in the second half despite none of either in the first.
Stanford would finish the game on a 17-2 run.
Now, ASU (11-10, 5-5) falls behind Stanford (11-9, 6-4) in the Pac-12 standings. Although the Sun Devils sit at sixth place, they’re just two games back of first place.
“If we make a late surge, we could still end up on top, and I like our chances,” Neal, who finished with 12 points, told reporters. “Every game we play for the rest of the conference schedule is a winnable game.”
The next opportunity to get back on track and start that late surge is Saturday when ASU hosts Cal, which lost by 26 to No. 11 Arizona on Thursday.