Arizona State led by seven, 77-70, with 10 seconds to go, but fouled Nevada twice in the last five seconds, leaving the Wolf Pack a sliver of hope at surprising the Pac-10 school.
Unfortunately for Nevada, ASU made just enough foul shots of to slip away with the narrow win.
Nevada’s Malik Story buried a trey four minutes into the second half that pulled the Wolf Pack within one, 40-39. From there, Arizona State put together a 14-3 outburst to forge ahead 54-42, its biggest lead of the night.
A 9-0 Nevada spurt kept the Wolf Pack in contention and left the Sun Devils up by three, 54-51. The ASU edge was still three, 61-58, after Nevada point guard Deonte Burton drained a 3-pointer with 4:50 to go.
Story’s third and final three of the game helped Nevada get all the way back to within one, 67-66, with 1:20 to go, but that’s as good as it got for the hosts.
Arizona State’s Ty Abbott answered with a three of his own on the Sun Devils' next trek down the floor to start a 6-0 ASU run that proved too be too much for Nevada to overcome.
“We executed a little better (offensively) down the stretch,” Nevada coach David Carter said. “We definitely didn’t close down (defensively). We didn’t get the stops we needed.”
The Wolf Pack hurt its cause by connecting on just 23-of-35 (65.7 percent) free throws.
Olek Czyz, a 2008 Reno High graduate, made his Wolf Pack debut after transferring from Duke last winter. He played 24 minutes, including 18 in the second half. The athletic 6-foot 7-inch forward had 10 points and seven rebounds in defeat.
“It was really close,” Czyz said. “Every possession counted for us. I’m disappointed we didn’t come through. It was a disappointing loss. We had some good things happen for us in the game and we had some bad things happen for us. Now we just turnaround and play again on Monday, put this behind us.”
Story had 19 points and Burton 18 to lead Nevada (2-8) while Dario Hunt chipped in 10.
Rihards Kuksiks scored 20 points to pace the Sun Devils (5-4), who also got 17 points from Abbott and 15 from Trent Lockett.
There weren’t many fireworks in the first half. Arizona State grabbed a quick 8-2 lead after back-to-back 3-pointers from Kuksiks. The Sun Devils eventually pushed their lead to eight, 21-13, following a runner from Kuksiks with 6:37 to go before halftime. Kuksiks had 11 points in the first half.
Nevada trimmed the ASU lead to three, 21-18 after a Story layup and Burton 3-point play. Arizona State answered with an 8-2 run to go on top 29-20 after a 3-point play by Abbott with 2:35 to go before halftime. The nine-point margin was the biggest of the game to that point.
The Sun Devils got a baseline jumper from Kyle Cain with three ticks remaining in the first half to conclude the scoring before the intermission. The Cain bucket left the visitors with a 33-26 advantage at halftime.
“I thought we came out flat in the first half and played from behind,” Carter said. “When you play from behind, it’s hard. We played with a lot of energy in the second half. There are things we can take away from this, but it was an uphill climb all night.”
Arizona State had the lead at halftime largely due to more accurate shooting. The Sun Devils knocked down 13-of-26 first half shots compared to Nevada’s 9-of-26.
Nevada returns to the hardwood Monday for a 7:30 p.m. home game against Portland State.