Arizona State never lost in the desert in basketball. No one beat the Sun Devils in Tempe. On Jan. 4, 1964, these were the long odds facing Seattle University when it showed up to play a nonconference game.
Two frantic hours later, the Chieftains scrambled out of town with a 100-96 victory, having snapped ASU's seemingly invincible 52-game home win streak.
That same season, the Chiefs ended Utah State's 22-game home winning streak. They also pressed No. 1-ranked and unbeaten UCLA to the buzzer on a neutral site in the NCAA Tournament before losing.
"No team intimidated us," SU forward John Tresvant said. "We were good on the road. Sometimes we weren't too good at home, but we were always good on the road."
With Seattle U returning to full Division I championship eligibility for the first time in 33 years -- when the Redhawks host Washington in a women's soccer match at Championship Field on Aug. 17 -- this is the 23rd in a series of 33 stories replaying memorable SU events previously held at the NCAA's top level (1952-80).
The ASU-SU matchup in '64 was a guaranteed offensive free-for-all: The Ned Wulk-coached Sun Devils, who preferred to fast break at all times, averaged 88.2 points per game; the Chiefs scored at an equally robust 85.5 clip per outing.
"We had a pretty good team," said Tresvant, whose Chieftains improved to 9-1 with the road victory. "We were pretty big and we usually played good defense."
The game started fast and didn't let up for either side. There were 18 ties. The teams were knotted at 50 at halftime. The footrace continued into the second half, with SU briefly falling behind by four before reclaiming the lead for good at 88-87 on a basket by Peller Phillips. The Chiefs were up by eight in the closing minutes before ASU narrowed it down.
"It was a permissive defensive game," SU coach Bob Boyd said. "I think our kids played pretty well, though a little careless on defense maybe."
An inside matchup provided a bruising battle of future NBA forwards in Tresvant and "Jumpin' Joe" Caldwell of ASU. Caldwell led all scorers with 28 points, many coming on dunks, followed by teammate Art Becker's 25.
SU had a balanced attack. Forward Greg Vermillion, now deceased, topped the Chieftains with 27 points, 20 of them coming in the opening half, Tresvant added 22 points, guard Charlie Williams chipped in 18 and Phillips had 17.
"I loved the SU run-and-gun style of basketball in 1964," Phillips said. "It was like putting a video on fast forward. We were like track sprinters."
In the desert, the Chieftains won this hot-footed race to the buzzer in impressive fashion. They stepped around all of the built-in obstacles that Caldwell and ASU tradition presented, and continued their steady march to a 22-win season, the NCAA Tournament and an eventual showdown with budding dynasty-builder UCLA. Winning on the road always felt special.
"It made me happy," Tresvant said. "It made me proud."
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