Two teams with distinctly different goals as the Pac-12 Conference regular season winds down go head-to-head Thursday night when Arizona State visits Stanford.
The game is a rematch of a tightly contested affair in Tempe, Ariz., in December, when the Sun Devils (16-8, 7-6 Pac-12) outlasted the Cardinal (10-13, 4-8) for a 68-64 win behind 19 points from Desmond Cambridge Jr.
Arizona State has dropped five of its last six games following a 15-3 start. But with four winnable games in their next four outings — they visit California on Saturday before returning home to host Colorado and Utah — the eye-catching 20-win mark for the season remains in sight.
Sun Devils coach Bobby Hurley had such a run in mind when his club thumped Oregon State 68-57 at home last week. But that was followed by a hard-fought, 75-70 home loss to Oregon that he labeled a “tough pill to swallow.”
“Two teams were pretty desperate to win,” he said of the Oregon game, sizing up his club’s current situation in a nutshell. “I appreciate the effort of the guys.”
DJ Horne paced the hosts with 18 points.
While Arizona State can still help itself in the minds of the NCAA tournament committee over the course of the next few weeks, the only path likely left for Stanford to the Big Dance is through the conference tourney.
With a chance to be a hot team headed to Las Vegas in four weeks, the Cardinal have won five of six. That said, Stanford coach Jerod Haase insists that his club, coming off an 84-62 loss at Colorado on Sunday, has its eye on Arizona State — not a magical Pac-12 tournament run.
“We always take the approach that every game is a big game. The next game is where the focus is,” he said. “We’ve been trending up for a little while right now. Hopefully there will be more consistency going forward in a positive way.”
Harrison Ingam in particular has been trending up for the Cardinal. The sophomore has scored in double figures in four of the last seven games, with Stanford going 5-2 over that stretch.
–Field Level Media