TEMPE, Ariz. – Arizona State’s grip on a first-round bye in the Pac-12 basketball tournament started slipping.
Once up 17, the Sun Devils found themselves in a tight game as shots missed and balls ended up in Washington State’s hands.
By digging down and pulling it out, Arizona State not only earned that coveted bye, it might have locked up a third straight NCAA tournament bid.
Alonzo Verge Jr. scored 20 points, Remy Martin added 18 and Arizona State held off Washington State’s late rally for an 83-74 victory Saturday.
“We kept fighting to the end and weren’t going to let each other down,” Arizona State senior Rob Edwards said after his final home game.
Needing a victory to get the bye, the Sun Devils (20-11 overall, 11-7 Pac-12) overcame a shaky start by playing well at both ends while building a 17-point lead.
Once the Cougars went to a zone defense late in the second half, Arizona State started missing shots and turning the ball over. The Cougars (15-16, 6-12) took advantage, going on a 17-2 run to tie the score at 65.
The Sun Devils answered.
Edwards made a corner three, Verge added a jumper and Arizona State made six straight free throws in the final 30 seconds.
Tony Miller led Washington State with a career-high 21 points on 9-for-12 shooting.
“To be in that game is a credit to our guys staying with it,” Cougars coach Kyle Smith said. “They easily could have quit.”
WSU scoring leader CJ Elleby was limited to six points on 2-for-19 shooting, including zero of 10 on three-pointers. Elleby had a game-high 12 rebounds.
Cougars guard Isaac Bonton had 17 points, but shot 5 of 25 from the field and made 11 of the team’s 20 turnovers.
Jeff Pollard, who has a hand injury, missed his second straight game.
WSU will be the No. 11 seed in the Pac-12 tournament for the third consecutive season.
Both teams struggled with three-point shooting. WSU was 5 for 25 (20%) and the Sun Devils were 7 of 29 (24.1%).
The victory likely assures Arizona State of three straight trips to the NCAA tournament for the first time since the early 1960s.
“I can’t say 100%, but I imagine we are (in the NCAA field),” Arizona State coach Bobby Hurley said. “We’ve had a great year, we have a great story, we have one of the most dynamic players in college basketball the rest of the country should get to see — and Remy wants that stage.”
WSU won the teams’ first meeting 67-65 in Pullman after forcing 21 turnovers. This time, the Sun Devils made 16 turnovers.
Arizona State came out tight, clanking shots from all angles. The Sun Devils opened 4 for 15 from the floor and missed their first six three-pointers to fall into an early eight-point hole.