NIT First Round Recap - Arizona State vs Jacksonville
Ben Smith knocked down the winning three-pointer with two seconds remaining to lift Jacksonville to a 67-66 victory Tuesday night over host Arizona State in the opening round of the NIT.
The eighth-seeded Dolphins (20-12) rallied from a 60-49 deficit in the final 3:59, ending the game on an 18-6 run to stun the top-seeded Sun Devils at Wells Fargo Arena in Tempe.
Smith, a 5-foot-10 senior guard who scored 23 of his game-high 26 points in the second half, sprinted into the frontcourt on the dribble after Jacksonville’s Ayron Hardy rebounded a missed free throw by ASU guard Derek Glasser with nine seconds remaining. With the Dolphins trailing 66-64, Smith launched his triple from beyond the top of the key, banking in the decisive shot as the clock hit the two-second mark.
Arizona State (22-11) was unable to get off a shot at the buzzer.
Rihards Kuksiks led the Sun Devils with 21 points on 7 of 13 shooting. The junior forward made four shots from three-point range during the first 11 minutes of the second half as ASU built a 55-44 advantage with 9:33 left.
After the Sun Devils went ahead 60-49 on a layup by Jamelle McMillan with 3:59 remaining, the Dolphins scored seven consecutive points over the ensuing 1:55 to pull within 60-56.
McMillan made the first of two foul shots to extend ASU’s lead to 65-60 with 20 seconds left. After McMillan missed his second attempt, Jacksonville outscored the Sun Devils 7-1 over the final 16 seconds.
A layup by Hardy jump-started Jacksonville’s decisive surge, reducing the Dolphins’ deficit to 65-62 with 16 seconds remaining. Smith followed with a steal, which led to two free throws by Chris Edwards to draw the Dolphins within 65-64 with 10 seconds left.
Glasser was fouled a second later, and the Arizona State senior made his first free throw and missed the second. Hardy grabbed the rebound with nine seconds remaining to set the stage for Smith’s game-winning three-pointer.
With the victory, Jacksonville will advance to a second-round NIT matchup against fifth-seeded Texas Tech. The Red Raiders (18-15) defeated Seton Hall 87-69 on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Arizona State’s season ends in disappointment. The Sun Devils were hoping for a berth in the NCAA Tournament after finishing second in the Pac-10, but those aspirations were dashed following a 70-61 loss to Stanford in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament. Arizona State garnered a top seed in the NIT as a consolation prize, but the positive vibes evaporated with Tuesday’s first-round defeat.
By Tom Kessler
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