New York Nine seconds remaining in overtime. Who gets the ball? It was a no-brainer for Arizona State coach Don Newman.
"Basically, the plan was to put the ball in Jeremy Veal's hands," Newman said after the Sun Devils' gut-wrenching 90-88 overtime loss to No. 2-ranked Kansas in Wednesday night's semifinals of the Preseason NIT at Madison Square Garden.
"He's our go-to guy. I'll do that 10 out of 10 times, and I guarantee you he'll make some of those shots."
The ball did go to Veal and with about six seconds remaining the 6-foot-3 senior guard launched a three-point attempt just behind the key. It bounced off the rim.
Did Newman want a three-pointer in that situation? A two-pointer, after all, might have forced a second overtime.
"I said, 'If we can get a two, take it," Newman said. "But a player like Veal, you've got to let him take the shot."
Veal's win-or-lose shot, as many errant three-point attempts do, caromed angularly off the rim.
"I went to grab it," said sophomore guard Eddie House, another ASU go-to guy, "but (Paul) Pierce batted it out, and that was the game."
Curiously, a three-point field goal attempt by KU's Billy Thomas with 11 seconds remaining in OT also bounced high, but Thomas' trey fell straight into the net and proved to be the game-winner.
"It was their turn," House said. "Thomas' shot bounced right in, but he's a great shooter. I can't take anything away from him."
No one was taking anything away from House or Veal, either. They combined for 51 points -- Veal had 29 and House 22 -- and their quickness in the backcourt continually frustrated the Jayhawks. Veal logged 39 minutes with just one turnover while House played 42 minutes and had no turnovers.
Moreover, Veal and House, with four apiece, accounted for all the Sun Devils' three-point goals.
"It was definitely a heartbreaker," House said. "We had an excellent game plan, and we almost executed it to perfection. Nobody expected us to be this close."
Once 6-8 Mike Batiste fouled out late in regulation and 6-9 Bobby Lazor was disqualified in overtime, the Sun Devils looked more like Dirt Devils. Their tallest player was 6-6 Urit Kelly.
"Kansas was running in fresh bodies and at times I looked in the bleachers to see if there was somebody I could use," Newman quipped.
Still ... if Veal's three-pointer had dropped through the net, the Sun Devils would have fired a shot heard 'round the college basketball world. As it was, Arizona State sent a message it isn't the only quality team in Arizona.
"We're going to send messages every game," Batiste said, "because of all the negative things that have happened with coach (Bill) Frieder and the point-shaving and all that. We're going to try to turn it all into positives."
Wednesday night was one of the positives.
"There wasn't one ounce in any of our bodies that came here to get a moral victory," Newman said. "It's a tough loss. It really hurt."