Cardinal deals Devils tough blow

LOS ANGELES -- Arizona State, in all likelihood, had its tournament bubble burst with a 70-61 loss to Stanford in the quarterfinals of the Pac-10 tournament.

Despite sweeping the season series against the Cardinal for the first time in five years, the Sun Devils only lead by one point for 19 seconds in the game, while Stanford led by as many as 17 in the second half.

It would appear now the only chance the Pac-10 has of sending two teams to the tournament is if Washington makes it to the Pac-10 title game and doesn’t get embarrassed on national television.

“I don’t know how anybody knows [who’s going to make the NCAA tournament], it changes hourly,” said Arizona State coach Herb Sendek. “We finished second in the conference but I don’t think anybody knows until Sunday. Obviously the more you win, the better your chances get so we’ll have to hope for the best now that we weren’t able to advance in this tournament.”

One of the unlikely heroes of the game for the Cardinal was senior guard Emmanuel Igbinosa, who normally doesn’t play on Thursdays because he has to attend class (hey, this is Stanford, after all).

“Since January I’ve had a required class I had to take to graduate with the rest of my class, it’s a combination psych class and senior seminar for my major, which is Management Science & Engineering,” said Igbinosa, who scored 12 points. “They only offer them once a week and I can’t miss them so I can’t play in Thursday games, but I told them well in advance I wanted to play in the Pac-10 tournament, so I made an arrangement and did my course earlier so I could get out.”

Having him on the court paid big dividends for the Cardinal as he was the team’s sparkplug off the bench and made big shots whenever the Sun Devils attempted to comeback. His play also rewarded the patience of Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins who not only allowed Igbinosa to miss Thursday games, but also practices during the week because of his class schedule.

“He has one of the most unusual situations of any basketball player in the country where his coach will allow him to miss several practices during the week and play him on the weekends,” Dawkins said. “But there’s a reason for that, and I think he showed it tonight with how valuable he is.”