Sun Devils Come Up Short At The End, Again

Struggling Fresno State gets 30 points from guard Kevin Olekaibe in 68-65 win over ASU.

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ASU Basketball Vs. Southern Miss: Buzzer-beater Sinks Sun Devils For Second Straight Game

TEMPE -- Another day, another three-pointer by another team to sink the Sun Devils at the end of the game.

Forward Darnell Dodson drained a three at the buzzer after Arizona State had tied the game with five seconds left, giving Southern Mississippi a 64-61 win over ASU Monday night at Wells Fargo Arena.

The key stat of the game was an 18-5 deficit on the offensive boards, USM dominating with hustle after missed shots.

"The single biggest factor was their offensive rebounding," coach Herb Sendek said. "We had a hard time with their athleticism and size."

ASU (4-7) let a nine-point halftime lead dissipate in the second half as Southern Miss outscored the Sun Devils 43-31in the half. 

Kyle Cain, whose 12 points led ASU at the 5:28 mark of the game, fouled out at that point. Keala King led the Devils with 16 points and 10 rebounds.

A TV audience saw Southern Miss (9-2) heat up late in the second half after shooting only 23.3 percent in the first half, with a barrage of three-pointers that gave the Golden Eagles a 54-43 lead with 4:49 to play.

The Sun Devils could have used this win, their non-conference season a disappointment. They cut the lead to two, 60-58, with 57.6 seconds left, missed free throws by Southern Miss keeping ASU in the game near the end.

ASU had a chance to tie down 61-58, but Chanse Creekmur missed a baseline three with 17 seconds left. The Devils had one more chance to tie down two with five seconds left, and King hit two free throws to pull it even. Then USM got the ball to Dodson, who scored all 17 of his points in 15 minutes of action, for the winner.

ASU lost to Northern Arizona by one on a three with one second left. 

"The NAU loss was a tough loss," guard Trent Lockett said. "If we don't do it, who else is going to go in and keep fighting?"

Sendek labeled his team as "crestfallen" after the loss and that the players were crying in the locker room after the NAU loss. 

ASU shot the ball fairly well until late in the game. The Golden Eagles took their first lead, 40-38 on a three-point play by guard Neil Watson with 8:09 to play. 

Ruslan Pateev's interior defense was a factor, until he was ejected along with Southern Miss swingman Torye Pelham midway through the second half for an altercation. Pateev had four blocked shots, but Pelham took his 10 rebounds and six points with him to the locker room. 

The altercation seemed to energize the Golden Eagles and not ASU, which needed a spark. 

As many shots as it clanked in the first half, folks at Wells Fargo Arena might have thought that Southern Miss wasn't short for Southern Mississippi.

The Golden Eagles -- led by that one-time party animal Larry Eustachy as head coach --  made 7 of 30 shots. That's pretty bad, even in baseball. 

Southern Miss was in such a funk that one point in the first half, Eustachy called a timeout mid-possession and charged out on the court to scream at forward Jonathan Mills. Then he pushed Mills back to the bench while the rest of the team huddled. 

An 8-1 run to close out the half gave ASU a 30-21 lead at the intermission. 


Saldivar Leads NAU, 'That Third Team In Arizona' To Emotional Upset Win


Oh yes, they were a happy bunch. The shouts of joy echoed down the halls in the bowels of Wells Fargo Arena. 

They didn't come from the home team. Saturday night was Northern Arizona's time to celebrate an upset win over a Pac-12 opponent, Arizona State. NAU (4-7) had one previous win over a Division I opponent this season, Cal-State Bakersfield (which plays as an independent and is not conference-affiliated) and two wins over lower-tier opponents. 

Stallon Saldivar, a steady, heady junior guard from Salt Lake City, hit the winning shot, a three-pointer with one second to play and ASU couldn't get off a shot in 0.08 seconds. The Lumberjacks won 69-68, having led only twice until the final horn.

Afterward, the buzz words about the NAU program, whose head coach Mike Adras resigned last week and was playing its second game under 70-year-old interim coach Dave Brown, were "teammates," "togetherness," and "family."

It was hard not to be happy for the kids and senior citizen coach from Flagstaff. 

"It's big. It's a winning streak for us with D-I schools. The morale is unbelievable in the locker room," Saldivar said. "It's been a hell of a week for us, so we just came together and I'm just proud of...everybody."

NAU had lost it coach of 12-plus seasons and had only days earlier gotten back guard Gabe Rogers, who missed two months recovering from shoulder surgery.

Saldivar started hot and stayed hot. The six-footer established new career highs for points (24) and threes made (six) and played all 40 minutes, sinking 6 of 8 threes. He also dished out nine assists, upstaging the taller and more athletically-gifted Keala King, his counterpart at the point for ASU.

"Once I made the first one, it's kind of a confidence thing," Saldivar said. "I just felt it (Saturday)."

The Lumberjacks had less talent, size and depth. Had ASU tried to post up their taller guards more often against the shorter 'Jacks, the story might have been different. But NAU played patiently, committed just nine turnovers and tied ASU for rebounds with 27. It also won despite a 56.3 field goal percentage for the Sun Devils, the highest under coach Herb Sendek in a loss.

NAU changed up its defensive looks often, Saldivar said, which might have crossed up the Devils. It was the second win over ASU for NAU since a 75-71 win at Wells Fargo Arena in November 2006.

"We stayed with it and it was a matter of our young men believing," Brown said. "It's about a group of young men, it's about a university and it's a privilege for me to be a part of that."

Brown, who was confident with Rogers, Saldivar and James Douglas as his three best shooters on the floor in the final minutes, was downright giddy, understandably so.

"Isn't it fun?" he said with a smile. "To have some senior citizen walk into their locker room and say we're going to try to play together and become a family was an interesting phenomenon to deal with."


Arizona State Vs. Northern Arizona: The Lowest Of The Lows

Losses don't get much more deflating than this one folks; the visiting Lumberjacks out-willed, out-played, and out-coached the Sun Devils Saturday night, leaving Tempe with a 69-68 upset victory thanks to Stallon Saldivar's game-winning three. There weren't many highlights for the Devils outside of Keala King and Chanse Creekmur's combined 31 points. Who really stole the show was the man who had the final shot, Saldivar, who finished with a career-high 24 points, including 6 of 8 shooting from behind the arc to go along with his nine assists.

"I thought the Northern Arizona guards really dominated the basketball game," Head Coach Herb Sendek said. "They just completely held the game in the palms of their hands."

While the Saldivar and fellow guard James Douglas (18 points, 7 of 11 shooting) did have very dominate games, this one really came down to the Devils not playing to their strengths. Despite owning a huge height advantage, the Arizona State tied the Lumberjacks in rebounds (27) and points in the paint were hard to come by.

"It was a major emphasis going into the game," Sendek said. "But we didn't get it inside very much."

To their credit,  ASU tried to stick with that game plan early with Ruslan Pateev and Trent Lockett getting their first six points near the rim. But after that, the Devils fell right back into their old habits, committing 10 first half turnovers and 17 total throughout the game. Without those, this one's results might be opposite, considering the Devils did manage to shoot 56% from the field and 50% from downtown.

"We converted at a high rate when we didn't turn it over," Sendek said.

An exhausted Sendek also said in the post-game presser that "nobody like the place we're in right now" with only two more games before conference play begins. Sitting at 4-6 despite an extremely soft schedule, angst is now spreading throughout the locker room on what many fans are already calling a lost season in December.

"I'm pretty concerned," Creekmur shared. "We have to fix a lot of things; some guys have to find it in their heart and as a team we have to pull together."


Other Game Notes:

  • Guard Chris Colvin returned from his one-game suspension with atrocious results, logging only two minutes and managing to still commit two turnovers in that time span.
  • Today marks the fourth straight game in which Lockett has had ten or less points. ASU's emotional leader will have to step it up if this team is going to even be a blip on the Pac-12 radar. In a related note, Carrick Felix played all 40 minutes today despite not having his best game (eight points, 3 of 9 shooting). This team might not be Lockett's forever if he isn't able to break out of this funk.
  • It's official: Creekmur is out of his early season slump. Hitting five of his eight three-pointers today, the sophomore sharpshooter is now shooting 63.6% from downtown in his last two games. Sendek on Creekmur: "He's really found his stroke."
  • On another positive note, freshman Jonathan Gilling managed to have perhaps his most impressive game of the season, racking up seven points in only eight minutes once Lockett picked up his fourth foul. This is a very inconsistent rotation, but Gilling is ever so slowly solidifying his role.
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