MIAMI (AP)—On the eve of Arizona State’s first NCAA tournament game since 2003, James Harden had teammates laughing when he teased point guard Derek Glasser about being reluctant to shoot.
So when Harden had trouble getting going Friday against Temple, guess who came to the rescue?
Glasser scored a career-high 22 points, and the Sun Devils overcame a second consecutive subpar performance by Harden to win 66-57.
“It was one of those games where my shot wasn’t falling,” said Harden, the Pac-10 player of the year. “My teammates picked it up, definitely—Derek throughout the entire game.”
Harden scored nine points, less than half his average. And while he made only one shot, it was a big one: a 3-pointer with 4:02 left that helped to squelch a Temple comeback.
Glasser also connected from behind the arc. The junior went 4-for-5 on 3s as Arizona State (25-9) reached the 25-win milestone for the first time since 1975.
Seeded sixth in the South Region, the Sun Devils will play Sunday against Syracuse (27-9), which beat Stephen F. Austin 59-44.
No. 11-seed Temple (22-12) was eliminated in the opening round for the second year in a row and hasn’t won a tournament game since 2001. Senior Dionte Christmas scored 29 in his final game for the Owls.
“If you would have told us that James Harden would have ended up with nine points and I would have had 29 points and we lost the game, I would have thought you were crazy,” Christmas said.
Harden went 1-for-8. The performance was reminiscent of last week’s Pac-10 tournament championship game, when he missed a free throw, layup and 3-pointer in the final minute and scored 10 points in a loss to Southern Cal.
Against Temple he went more than 14 minutes in the first half without an attempt. He encountered heavy traffic every time he penetrated and had three shots blocked, but he did finish with seven rebounds, three steals and three assists. He went 6-for-9 from the line.
“The best part about James is he’s all about the team,” coach Herb Sendek said. “Just because it wasn’t his day, because he wasn’t the centerpiece, he didn’t disengage from his team. He recognizes the contributions other guys make.”
Temple never led and trailed by eight midway through the second half before making a charge. Christmas scored three consecutive baskets to cut the margin to 52-49, its smallest deficit since early in the game, but the Owls could get no closer.
After Harden missed his first six shots, his 3-pointer put Arizona State ahead 56-49. He sank a pair of free throws on the Sun Devils’ next possession, and they led by at least four the rest of the way.
“The last couple of minutes I started to be a little more aggressive and just create,” Harden said. “Throughout the game I didn’t play my best, but the last couple minutes I wanted to give my all and go out with a fight.”
Temple went 0-for-5 in the last 3:45. The Sun Devils held Christmas without a basket in the final 5:02.
“Those guys paid a little bit more attention to me than they were in the beginning of the game,” Christmas said. “Those guys were switching off more aggressively on me.”
The Sun Devils clinched the win by making six consecutive free throws in the final 40 seconds, including four by Glasser.
While Harden struggled offensively, his teammates combined to shoot 19-for-31 (61 percent). Jeff Pendergraph went 8-for-14 and scored 22 points. Glasser had 17 points in the first half alone.
“Our offense just created open looks for me,” Glasser said. “I was open, so I took them.”
“Derek has been playing his career-best basketball here the last couple weeks,” Sendek said. “He’s a significantly better shooter. He has really worked hard on that part of his game, and it has helped our team tremendously.”
Arizona State made six shots in a row, including three by Glasser, to build its biggest lead at 29-16 less than 12 minutes into the game.
The Sun Devils went the next eight possessions without a point, and Temple closed to 29-26. Glasser then sank consecutive 3-pointers, giving Arizona State a 35-26 lead.
Christmas played all 40 minutes and finished 5-for-11 from 3-point range, but the rest of the Owls shot only 11-for-35 (31 percent) from the field. Semaj Inge went 0-for-10.
“We had our looks,” coach Fran Dunphy said. “We did not take advantage of it, as we need to in a game of this magnitude.”