2017 Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Tournament: Arizona State opens tourney with thrilling OT win
LAS VEGAS – Bang. Bang. Bang.
Just like that, and the Sun Devils stamped their tickets to the quarterfinals in the 2017 Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Tournament.
No. 8 seed Arizona State looked like it was in cruise control in the second half of Wednesday’s tourney opener against ninth-seeded Stanford. But the Card kept creeping back until Michael Humphrey hit a game-tying jumper with :04 seconds left to knot the game at 81 and send it to overtime.
Once the extra period arrived, ASU responded in fitting fashion. First Kodi Justice pulled up and hoisted a trifecta. Bang. Then Shannon Evans II shot a three the next time down. Bang. Up next was sharpshooter Torian Graham and you can guess what happened. Bang. ASU led by 8 at that point, en route to securing the 98-88 victory and a matchup in Thursday’s quarterfinals with top-seed Oregon.
“These guys have been doing it the whole season,” Hurley said of his players’ clutch scoring. “It shows the character and the determination of my team and the heart of my team to rebound from being tied at the end there. It was a tribute to how they’ve been competing and battling this whole season.”
Talk about an exciting start to the Pac-12 Tournament.
Though the Sun Devils might have taken control of the game from behind the arc, it was big man Obinna Oleka who paced ASU in regulation. The high-flyer racked up a career-high 27 points and 13 rebounds, throwing down a couple of menacing alley-oops along the way. In a contest that featured a host of talented post players – including Stanford’s Humphrey and Travis Reid – Oleka was the biggest and baddest of all.
“I was just playing as hard as I can no matter what,” Oleka said. “I didn’t look at the game or stats, I just played hard to win the game.”
Things aren’t going to get any easier for ASU on Thursday in the quarterfinals against Oregon (Noon PT / 1 p.m. MT on Pac-12 Network). The Ducks feature an explosive offense, talented roster full of playmakers and a pace of play that few teams can keep up with. The Sun Devils nearly pulled off a big upset in Eugene when these two teams met on Feb. 2, but Oregon survived and earned a 71-70 win.
“I think that was our game to win in Eugene,” said ASU guard Tra Holder. “But down the stretch, Dillon Brooks took it over. He’s [Pac-12] Player of the Year so we respect him. We’re going to watch him and see how we can correct our mistakes, so hopefully we’ll give ourselves a better chance to win.”