Christian Polk showed he could hit the big shot when his twisting 3-pointer at the buzzer sunk Iowa last month and he showed it again Saturday.
With 6-foot-10 Ryan Anderson and 6-7 Eric Vierneisel between he and the basket, the 6-3 freshman rose up and nailed an overtime-forcing 3-pointer with fewer than three seconds to play in regulation.
But as big as Polk’s gametying 3 was, Ayinde Ubaka’s 3s were bigger. The senior from California out-gunned his freshman counterpart by nailing a pair of long-range shots in the opening minute of overtime and ASU failed to recover in a 66-62 loss at Wells Fargo Arena.
“Ubaka’s a real good player. He’s a veteran. He’s a senior,” Polk said. “He knows what he’s doing out there. Good players make big plays and that’s what he did.”
Small mistakes, if reversed, could have provided a more favorable outcome for ASU.
• The Sun Devils committed 10 first-half turnovers and trailed by as many as nine points before the break. As a result they were forced to play from behind for almost the entire game.
• On a key possession late in regulation, Cal grabbed offensive rebounds of missed free throws twice. The series turned a one-point ASU edge into a 55-52 deficit.
• In overtime, Serge Angounou missed the front end of a one-and-one opportunity and Jerren Shipp missed two free throws with ASU trailing 62-59 with under 30 seconds to play.
Despite the errors, ASU (0-2 in Pac-10, 6-7 overall) dragged Cal (1-1, 9-5) into overtime on the second huge shot of Polk’s young career.
“He’s shown amazing capacity to do that,” ASU coach Herb Sendek said of a shot he labeled “miraculous.”
Polk had a bit of a wait before he could get the shot up.
With a foul to give, Cal disrupted ASU’s offense with seven seconds left on the clock. Though he wasn’t fouled in the act of shooting, Polk hoisted up an off-balance shot that banked in to the cheers of the crowd.
It was disallowed, but he got his shot a few moments – and a few timeouts by Sendek – later.
“We have a very young team,” Sendek said. “This is the first time we’re in any of these situations together with freshman guards. We need timeouts in those situations to make sure we’re all on the same page.”
When he finally got the shot off, Polk nailed it, despite a solid double-teaming by two of Cal’s tallest players.
“They did a good job of defending it,” Polk said. “It was a challenging shot.”
Led by Ubaka who hit a pair of 3s in the early moments of overtime to stake his team to a quick six-point lead, Cal controlled the overtime period.
Soon Jeff Pendergraph was on the bench with five free throws and his teammates were missing free throws. ASU was 2-for-5 from the line in overtime. Cal was 5-for-6.
“It’s a tough loss. We thought we had them,” Polk said. “They made the plays in the end and that’s what good teams do.”