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February 8, 2013

Pateev, Gordon propel ASU past Cal

With his cheeks a little rosier than usual, Ruslan Pateev uncharacteristically took a seat in the Wells Fargo Arena interview room and admitted what everyone within earshot probably expected to be true.

"I was tired," Pateev said.

As his energy waned near the tail end of Pateev's rare 15 minutes of action in the second half, so too did his team's lead.

Up 15 points with 8:24 left, Arizona State saw Cal race back to trail by as little as two points in the game's final minute, but the Sun Devils held on to win 66-62 in front of 6,010 fans.

The win moved ASU into a second-play tie in the Pac-12 at 7-3 and 18-5 overall.

"I was tired but I know I had to keep playing, and I had to fight with my mind and that would help me be on the floor that long," said Pateev, a senior reserve center who tied a career high with 12 points and had eight rebounds in 26 minutes -- nearly three times his season average -- of action.

Stuck between knowing whether to be conservative or continue to attack on offense, Sun Devil coach Herb Sendek took blame for a 14-2 Cal run that gave his team -- and its fans -- a major scare.

"I thought maybe we were a little like somebody who is forced to drive a stick shift but never had a real good lesson," Sendek said. "We got caught in-between with a lead of 'Should we be patient? We don't want to quick-shoot.' And then they changed to the zone and I probably could've done a better job with our guys of just making sure they knew we still had to play and be in attack mode."

Cal guard Tyrone Wallace got hot during the Golden Bears' furious second half run, scoring nine of his 16 points in less than four minute, but ASU was able to stave off the run.

ASU junior guard Evan Gordon -- the game's leading scorer with 23 points on just 13 field goal attempts -- hit three of four free throw attempts in the game's final minute and Cal turned the ball over twice late as it squandered its inertia.

"We just kind of had a breakdown at the end," Gordon said. "We got to learn to not play the end of the game like that. We got to finish the game with focus and poise in what we do."

The Sun Devils once again showed they didn't need a stellar performance from one, or even both of their stars to win a Pac-12 game. Freshman star point guard Jahii Carson was quieter than normal with 12 points, three assists and five turnovers, and senior wing Carrick Felix and just eight points and five rebounds.

But with Gordon and Pateev -- who had two vicious dunks -- playing well and ASU's defense forcing 18 turnovers, the Sun Devils showed yet another way to win a game -- something they've done a good bit of this season.

"Just like in life, balance is probably a good thing," Sendek said. "We all want to have a great player who can on a given night get a lot of buckets, who can create his own shot, and I don't mean to diminish the importance of that.

"But if you can have other guys create balance, you become that much more difficult to defend."

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