Arizona State had less than six minutes to dig out of a double-digit hole and Jeff Pendergraph, the Sun Devil with the best shovel, was on the bench with four fouls. It didn’t look like the night for Herb Sendek to claim his first big win as ASU’s coach.
Freshman Christian Polk changed that when he capped a chaotic last-minute possession by nailing a contested 3-pointer from five feet behind the arc as the shot clock expired. It stood as the game-winner 12.7 seconds later after Iowa missed a pair of potential game-tying threes in ASU’s 67-64 victory Saturday night.
“The play kind of broke down and I saw an opening and I took it,” said Polk, using the loosest possible definition of the word “opening.” “Everybody was kind of scrambling. . . . It was pretty far.”
Polk nearly didn’t get a chance to heave up the shot that improved ASU’s record to 3-2.
“I almost called timeout three times,” Sendek admitted. “I elected not to because, believe it or not, sometimes it’s almost better when the play is broken and there’s a little bit of chaos.”
The Hawkeyes (2-3) hadn’t been home for more than a week, but a loud pro-Iowa contingent in the crowd of 10,115 greeted them upon their arrival at Wells Fargo Arena.
The support didn’t help early as Iowa had five missed shots and five turnovers in the first six minutes while ASU jumped out to a 13-0 lead. It was far different from last season’s meeting in Iowa City when ASU managed just 12 first-half points in a 63-43 loss.
“When we saw so many Iowa fans we thought it might be like an away game,” Polk said. “So we wanted to set the tone in the beginning.”
Iowa answered ASU’s hot start with a 9-0 run of its own and tied the game at 20 with 3:30 to play in the first half. The Hawkeyes hit four more 3-pointers in the final three minutes to head into the locker room with a 31-25 lead.
Haluska, a senior who has more than 100 starts in his career, scored eight of the team’s final 14 points of the half and finished with a gamehigh 24 points.
After Iowa stretched the lead to 10 points early in the second half, ASU climbed to within a single point twice, but Iowa pushed the lead back to three on its next possession both times.
The lead stretched to 60-48 before ASU closed out the game on a 19-4 run that was capped by Polk’s incredible shot. The run featured scoring from five different Sun Devils, including the starting freshmen trio of Polk, Derek Glasser and Jerren Shipp.
It was the first time since the 1999-2000 season and second time in the last 15 seasons that ASU had three freshmen on the floor to begin the game.
Polk came up the biggest.
“It’s not one you’d ever draw up,” Sendek said. “But Christian has an un-teachable, uncanny ability to get his shot. And he does make difficult shots. Fortunately for us that one went down.”