GAME NOTES: In the final quarterfinal-round matchup of the Pac-12 Conference Tournament, the third-seeded Arizona State Sun Devils take on the sixth-seeded Stanford Cardinal.
Arizona State backed its way into the third seed for this tournament, resting on its advantages in tie-breakers with the four other teams that finished 10-8 in conference play. The Sun Devils didn't improve that record much in the final weeks of the regular season, going 2-4 in their last six games. After suffering first-round exits in the previous three years, Arizona State pushed through to the quarterfinals last year, before falling to top-seed UCLA in an 80-75 final.
Stanford pulled away from Washington State in the second half to claim a 74-63 victory over the Cougars in the first round of this event on Wednesday. Chasson Randle led the way, scoring a game-high 22 points to pace five players in double figures for the Cardinal.
These teams split the season series this year, with the home team coming out on top each time. Stanford still leads the all-time series (44-33), with wins in seven of the last nine meetings. The winner this time around moves on to the semifinals to clash with the winner of the UCLA/Oregon matchup.
Stanford is a solid offensive team, netting 73.8 ppg on 46.4 percent shooting. Randle (18.9 ppg) is at the forefront of the scoring effort, netting 48.7 percent of his field goal tries as the third-leading scorer in the conference. Dwight Powell (14.2 ppg, 7 rpg, 3.4 apg) does a little bit of everything out of the post, providing scoring, rebounding and passing. Anthony Brown (13.1 ppg) can also score, and Josh Huestis (11.5 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 1.9 bpg) is an imposing force down low.
The regular season ended with a 78-76 disappointment in overtime to Oregon State for the Sun Devils. Arizona State trailed by as many as 14 points in regulation, but clawed its way back and forced an extra session thanks to a game-tying 3-pointer from Jermaine Marshall with 20 seconds to play. However, a 7-2 spurt from the Beavers in the final minutes of overtime ended the comeback attempt.
Herd Sendek's Sun Devils have been powered by the talented trio of Jahii Carson, Jermaine Marshall and Jordan Bachynski. Carson (18.9 ppg, 4.5 apg) is the sparkplug for the team, as he leads the way in both scoring and assists. The 5-ofoot-9 guard was the only player on the roster named to the 10-member All-Pac-12 First Team. Bachynski (11.2 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 4.2 bpg) leads the nation in blocked shots and was named the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, although he was put on the All-league Second Team. Marshall (15.4 ppg) didn't earn any postseason accolades, but he is perhaps the best pure scorer the Sun Devils have.
Stanford's hard-nosed brand of basketball could be a challenge for the sometimes streaky Sun Devils. However, as long as Carson and Marshall can consistently hit shots, ASU should pull out a win.
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