Justice prevails as Arizona State edges Kansas State
Kodi Justice poured in a career-high 28 points — missing just one shot from the field — as Arizona State held on for a 92-90 victory over Kansas State in a Las Vegas Invitational semifinal matchup Thursday night at Orleans Arena.
Romello White added 19 points as five players hit double figures for Arizona State (5-0), which advances to face No. 15 Xavier on Friday in the championship game.
Barry Brown Jr. paced Kansas State (4-1) with a career-high 27 points, but he missed a potential game-tying layup at the buzzer. Kamau Stokes added 23 points for the Wildcats, who meet George Washington in the third-place game.
Arizona State shredded Kansas State’s man-to-man defense that entered the game leading the nation in field-goal defense (30.8 percent) and ranking third in scoring defense (50.8 points per game).
With Arizona State holding a 91-90 lead, Stokes rimmed a 3-pointer with seven seconds to go. The Sun Devils’ Remy Martin split two free throws before Brown’s miss at the horn.
Kansas State held a 44-42 edge at intermission as both teams showcased hot hands.
Arizona State took its first lead of the second half on Justice’s 25-footer with 13:52 to go, but Stokes immediately answered with a 3-pointer as the Sun Devils regained the lead, 56-54.
Justice came down the floor and made a circus shot to re-tie the score, but Kansas State answered again with junior guard Amaad Wainright’s layup.
That exchange set the tone for the rest of the game. When Justice banked a right-handed runner while getting fouled with 7:35 to go, Arizona State held a 77-69 lead. Kansas State worked its way back within one point on three occasions.