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Sun Devils Overcome Free-Throw Struggles To Pull Off Upset

Arizona State overcame its shaky shooting from the free-throw line in Saturday night's upset win over No. 3 UCLA in triple overtime.
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With two minutes left in overtime, Kimani Lawrence went to the free-throw line with the chance to put his team ahead. The scoreboard read: ASU 67, No. 3 UCLA 67.

The trip would yield no points as the senior forward missed both at the line, leaving the game tied. Little did Lawrence know, he would get another opportunity at the line.

Fast forward to the third overtime period. There was 32 seconds left in the game and Arizona State led the Bruins 84-80. Lawrence was again going to the line to shoot two. This time he didn't waver, sinking both and giving the Sun Devils just enough room to pull off the upset victory.

"He stepped up there," head coach Bobby Hurley said. "I think that made it six, so that gave us a little more cushion. You know to overcome the turnover we had, it was great that Kimani stepped up in a key moment and made those shots."

And funny enough it was free throws that would save Arizona State time and time again. The irony being that this team has notably struggled at the charity stripe. 

Following the 87-84 triple overtime win over UCLA, the Sun Devils are still collectively shooting only 67.4% from the line. That's a conversion rate that ranks them eighth in the Pac-12 conference. 

"The adversities have been well documented," Hurley said. "What they've been through, but they haven't given up through all of this. And they've really stayed the course and keep trying to get better."

But for what seemed to be the first time this season, ASU took advantage of some extra trips to the line and converted. 

It all started in regulation, when both Jalen Graham and Marreon Jackson hit clutch free throws to keep the game even with just under a minute and a half to play. Graham, who has shot 48.9% from the stripe, didn't fold under the moment and sunk both his attempts.

In the first overtime, it was DJ Horne's time to shine. He had the only points of the period that didn't belong to Jackson and both came at the line. He put the Sun Devils up 69-67 with 1:34 remaining.

Then jumping forward to Lawrence's trip in the third overtime, that would ultimately seal the game for Arizona State. And while the box score may tell a different story, it was clutch-time free throws that gave the Sun Devils an edge.

Overall, ASU shot 18-for-26 from the line. In fact, that's a worse percentage (69.2%) than what UCLA managed for the game (75%). But it was the timing of the makes that mattered more than the misses.

Those makes would deliver the Sun Devils their biggest win of the season. And even more important, a special memory for all those involved.

"This is definitely No. 1," Jackson said, when noting where the game ranked during his collegiate career. "I played in a lot of games, good atmospheres, but this is definitely at that level of beating the No. 3 team in the country." 

"I don't think it gets much better than that."