4-0 Stanford as Fox Sports 1 switches us over from Gus Johnson and Xavier's win over Marquette. Just in time for Stefan Nastic to upfake and find Anthony Brown, who drills a corner three. 7-0 Stanford, and Fox can switch me back to bowling for all I care if the media blackout keeps the juju like this. After two Brown free throws, it's 9-0 Cardinal, and a refreshing mirror image from these teams' last meeting. The Devils jumped ahead 8-0 then, no small factor in a game they would win by 12. ASU, meanwhile, has fallen behind early in three straight games now, spotting Oregon the first 15 points of the game in an 85-78 loss, then watching Oregon State jump ahead 9-1 in a game the Devils would lose in overtime.
Then again, maybe the game yesterday helped the Cardinal to a quick start tonight, and can spark a run to further heights yet. Look no further than Colorado, who won the Pac-12 Tournament as the six seed two years ago. If the Cardinal pull the (minor) upset tonight, they would have to go through UCLA next, as the Bruins disposed easily of Oregon, 82-63, earlier today. UCLA routed visiting Stanford in the teams' last matchup, thanks to 15 steals, so with four turnovers already tonight, the Card would have to clean up its ballhandling in a hurry.
Stanford 9, Arizona State 0, 15:43 remaining, first half
Stefan Nastic hits the bench with two fouls at the 15 minute mark, and ASU capitalizes, finding Bo Barnes for a layup down low for their first points of the game. The Devils quickly get two fouls on Dwight Powell too, so it's John Gage time. Gage picks up his first foul just minutes later, so this could get interesting quickly if Jordan Bachynski keeps drawing whistles left and right.
The teams trade off scores, but then John Gage makes two straight plays to help extend the Cardinal lead. First, he nails a soft six-foot fadeaway from the left post, and then he blocks Jahii Carson on consecutive point-blank attempts on the opposite end. Chasson Randle added a pretty reverse layup and a free throw, Josh Huestis pulled down a few boards, and it's a double-digit Cardinal lead.
Stanford 18, ASU 8, 10:26 remaining, first half
Time for an ASU run, as Stanford goes cold from the perimeter, with John Gage and Chasson Randle missing corner threes, right as the transition defense shows some cracks. Gage isn't set as Bachynski gets a feed from Carson for a layup, and then no one is back at all as Jonathan Gilling gets out in transition for an uncontested slam. Jonathan Gilling had a three in there too for good measure, and the 7-0 ASU spurt sparks a Stanford timeout and the reinsertion of Stefan Nastic. At least that move pays immediate dividends. Nastic hits a layup and draws the foul to push the lead back to five heading into our next media stoppage.
Stanford 20, ASU 15, 7:27 remaining, first half
The Devils have Stanford's frontcourt in foul trouble, with Nastic and Powell both at two fouls, but the Card also have the Devils in a bind. Forward Eric Jacobsen has three fouls, and Gilling, his sub, is playing with two. Chasson Randle rebounds Anthony Brown's missed three, but you almost wish he didn't: Stefan Nastic is whistled for his third trying to establish post position moments later. Enter John Gage and Marcus Allen.
Allen is stripped after grabbing an offensive rebound the next play, but Gage has yet another block – his third by my count, though the official stats have him at only one – as the Cardinal are putting together a lockdown defensive half. (ASU, of course, is helping matters, having missed their share of free throws, threes and layups.) I may have spoken too soon, alas.
Josh Huestis scores five straight for the Card, but Gilling and Barnes drain consecutive threes to pull the Devils within one on the strength of what is now a 16-7 ASU run. Barnes hits another three to tie the contest at 27-all, but Gage responds with a three-ball of his own as the final seconds tick down in the first half. The defense holds and though it's a narrower lead, Stanford will hold the halftime edge.
Stanford 30, ASU 27, Halftime
(p.s.: We had no four-minute timeout as it was a continual, whistle-free flow for the final 7:27 of the half. What a pleasant surprise – don't know if I've ever seen teams blow through a TV timeout before.)
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