March 13, 2009
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Just when it appeared No. 23 Arizona State was on the ropes after Washington battled back from a 21-point lead, James Harden and the Sun Devils came alive.
Now, they'll be playing for their first Pac-10 tournament championship.
Harden had 24 points, nine rebounds and four assists, and Arizona State outscored No. 13 Washington 17-5 in the final six minutes Friday night, giving the fourth-seeded Sun Devils a 75-65 triumph over the top-seeded Huskies in the semifinals of the conference tournament.
"We knew they were going to go on a run," said Harden, the Pac-10 player of the year. "All we had to do was keep our composure, run our offense and play our usual defense. I think we did a good job of that. Guys stepped up late in the game. We're conditioned to play 40 minutes.
Harden shot 7-of-13, including 3-of-5 from 3-point range to lead ASU to just its second victory over Washington in the last 15 games between the schools.
"I thought they stepped up and hit some big shots," Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said. "They came through when they needed to."
Jeff Pendergraph had 18 points and seven rebounds, Derek Glasser added 16 points and five assists and Ty Abbott scored 12 points for ASU. The Sun Devils had a 3-10 record in previous conference tournaments and had never reached the semifinals, much less won the championship. They'll shoot for their first title Saturday.
"I think it's important for us to stay in the moment, enjoy the moment, get our rest and be ready for tomorrow," said ASU coach Herb Sendek, whose team will play in the NCAA tournament regardless of what happens Saturday.
Freshman Isaiah Thomas scored 17 points, Jon Brockman had 13 points and six rebounds and Justin Dentmon added 11 points for the top-seeded Huskies, who had their six-game winning streak snapped and lost for just the second time in 11 games. Washington (25-8) won the Pac-10 regular-season championship outright this season for the first time since 1953.
The Huskies led 60-58 before Glasser made two 3-pointers during an 11-0 run that gave the Sun Devils a 69-60 lead with 3:03 left, clinching the victory.
"He was terrific down the stretch," Sendek said of Glasser. "He was able to reset himself, overcome some of the bumps in the road, if you will, to really play well."
After being thoroughly outplayed in the first half and trailing 38-21, the Huskies moved within nine points by outscoring the Sun Devils 14-6 to begin the second half.
After baskets by Glasser and Harden extended ASU's lead to 13, the game was halted for about five minutes when Washington's Venoy Overton and Harden collided, with Overton being knocked to the court. Romar sprinted onto the court to pull Overton away as players from both sides jawed at each other.
Harden, Overton and Glasser were all hit with technical fouls.
That seemed to fire up the Huskies, who outscored the Sun Devils 20-6 to take a 55-54 lead with 8:14 remaining. It remained close until ASU took command.
Both sides played down the incident afterward.
"Guys are just playing hard. I don't what happened," Harden said.
"Just guys competing, playing hard," Brockman said. "Sometimes it just gets heated like that. We knew they were going to come out and play hard. We just knew it was going to be one of those heated, intense games with big bodies banging against each other."
Romar said similar scuffles happen in practice all the time.
"I don't think anyone lost control," he said. "It was just two teams competing hard."
Regarding Overton, Harden said: "He's a great defender, he's a guy you don't want to play against. I have great respect for him."
ASU shot 50 percent to Washington's 37.5 percent and outrebounded the Huskies 36-33.
The Sun Devils, who lost to Washington 84-71 and 73-70 in overtime earlier this season, shot 1-for-9 to start the game and trailed by six before Abbott and Pendergraph scored four points each during a 13-0 run that gave them an 18-11 lead.
The Huskies went scoreless for 4 1/2 minutes before a jumper by Dentmon ended the drought.
It was 20-15 when Harden made three 3-pointers during a 14-0 spurt to give the Sun Devils a 19-point lead. The Huskies went nearly six minutes without a point before Brockman's layup.
The Huskies trailed 38-17 before Denton's four-point play with 1.5 seconds left before halftime trimmed ASU's lead to 17. The Sun Devils shot 48.4 percent to Washington's 23.3 percent and outrebounded the Huskies 24-15 in the opening 20 minutes. The Huskies' 21 points were their fewest in a first half this season.
"I thought we were just a little impatient against their zone," Romar said. "When we get impatient at times, our offense goes downhill."