With a schedule that was already weak, this NCAA tournament-minded Sun Devils team could not afford to suffer a loss to the Utah Utes.
Arizona State lost 60-55 to a Utah team notorious for its weak conference record and the Sun Devils saw their tournament hopes vastly decrease.
The game started dreadfully slow for both teams, especially for ASU as the team only scored nine points in the game’s first 11 minutes.
Despite the sluggish start, the Sun Devils came back to pull within seven points at 29-22 courtesy of a string of 3-pointers at the end of the half.
Arizona State came into the game as one of only six teams in the NCAA that has started the same five every game of the season. That means the Sun Devils have started Jordan Bachynski every game, who had two disappointing showings against Cal and Stanford last week.
The pair of poor games were not foreseen as much of a problem for the near future, though, as ASU fans have seen Bachynski respond with virtuous games time and time again after poor performances.
With that in mind, Bachynski did register 14 points and 8 rebounds last time out against Utah, but he did allow Jason Washburn to tally a 19-point and 18-rebound game against him on the other end of the floor.
It was expected Washburn would repeat with a follow-up performance in Wednesday night’s contest, but Bachynski’s third straight sub-20 minute game, along with only two points and three rebounds, was not anticipated.
The second half for the Sun Devils included solid interior passing, and a concerted effort to not settle for 3-point shots on offense (although the 7-22 from downtown stat does not show it).
A 14-point and 11-assist game from Carrick Felix and 10 gritty points off the bench from Chris Colvin had the Sun Devils ahead by as many as six points with 2:39 left in the game.
However, the game really came down to a couple faulty plays late by the normally clutch freshman Jahii Carson.
The first came with 31.6 seconds, when ASU was behind 54-53, and the Devils refrained from fouling in that defensive possession. As the shot clock wound down, Carson guarded his man far out on the left wing and the freshman point guard was called for a reach-in foul excruciatingly late in the shot clock.
The reach-in foul allowed the Utes to make two free throws in the double bonus and move ahead 56-53.
Carson’s second late mistake came out of an ASU timeout with the team still behind 58-55. A drive to the hoop was drawn up for Carson, and he did just that by getting to the right side of the basket and attempting a layup.
Unfortunately, the drive resulted in Carson being called for a charge, and the freshman also fouled out on that play. The Utes’ free throws on the next possession effectively ended the game.
Carson had an all-around rough game against the Utes on Wednesday and gave up six turnovers on the night.
This is only the second time this season ASU has lost back-to back games, and the Sun Devils must make a powerful finish to the season if they hope to be dancing in March.