Arizona State should be feeling very fortunate it still has a winning streak and a place in the Top 25.
The 20th-ranked Sun Devils hope to turn the momentum of two straight one-point victories into a more dominant performance Tuesday when they host Idaho State.
Arizona State (9-1) has played just twice in the past two-plus weeks, but both games came down to the wire. The Sun Devils had to overcome a 16-point halftime deficit to force overtime against IUPUI on Dec. 14 before going on to win 59-58.
More good fortune came their way Saturday, when an overturned basket at the buzzer gave them a 76-75 victory over previously unbeaten BYU. Referees originally called Charles Abouo’s shot good and that would have given the Cougars a win, but after watching video replays, they ruled he hadn’t released the ball before time expired.
“After the refs changed their minds, it felt like the greatest feeling of my life,” said Sun Devils sophomore James Harden, who scored 21 of his 30 points in the second half.
Harden’s production was a big reason Arizona State was able to rally from a double-digit deficit in the final 20 minutes for a second consecutive game.
“On the one hand, it reinforces my belief that this team has great grit and tremendous heart,” coach Herb Sendek said after the Sun Devils’ fifth straight win. “On the other hand, it reminded us that we still have a lot of work to do.”
Senior forward Jeff Pendergraph, who had 22 points and nine rebounds Saturday, is choosing to look at the come-from-behind victories as a positive sign.
“We don’t get frustrated at crunch time. I think that’s why when we’re in these situations, we came up on top,” Pendergraph said. “That what makes our team so good; when we’re down, we realize what we need to do to get the win.”
It also helps to have Harden. An All-Pac-10 first-team selection as a freshman, Harden has four 30-point games this season and is in the top 10 in the nation with 24.3 points per game. He also had five steals Saturday and leads the team with 18.
Harden is 18-of-28 (64.3 percent) from 3-point range over the last six games and the Sun Devils have hit 84 3-pointers overall.
Idaho State (2-8) has only made 41 - fewest among Big Sky teams - and is shooting 30.1 percent from beyond the arc. The Bengals have been held under 60 points in three straight games, losing them all, since a 72-68 upset of Utah on Dec. 6.
They’ve played three games that went overtime - two needed double OT - and another three which were decided by five points or less.
They were unable to get closer than seven points in the second half of a 67-57 loss to Utah State on Saturday. Center Lucas Steijn came off the bench to score 15 points, but he was the only Idaho State player in double figures.
Amorrow Morgan leads the Bengals with 13.6 points per game but has gone cold, failing to score in double digits in five of the last six games while shooting 34.8 percent from the floor.
Arizona State is 2-1 versus Idaho State, winning the last meeting during the 1991-92 season.