On senior night at Wells Fargo Arena that drew a crowd of over 10,000 people and the largest student section in history, the Sun Devils could not pull out a win against Washington.
It was the familiar combination of free throws and a lack of physicality on the boards that got ASU in trouble early and often in the 68-59 loss that dropped ASU to 20-8 (9-6) on the year.
Carrick Felix, Jahii Carson, and head coach Herb Sendek were all at a loss for words at some point during their respective post game press conferences. The free throw woes continued as ASU only shot 8-15 from the line.
“On the offensive end we matched them, maybe the one thing that stands out more than any is our free throw shooting,” Sendek said. “Its almost a miracle we’ve won as many close games as we have given our free throw percentage.”
Felix and Carson both looked beat and dejected. “They definitely made shots, made free throws down the stretch I mean what can we say,” Felix said. “I think they were just on tonight… they just came out to play.”
Jahii Carson had ten points on 3-14 shooting with seven assists. He had trouble driving to the hoop given the Huskies length. It was “just an off night,” according to Carson.
The Sun Devils struggled mightily on the glass, similar to the first Washington game in Seattle when Aziz N’Diaye and Shawn Kemp Jr. dominated ASU inside. As a team, the Huskies outrebounded ASU 35-22. In fact, Felix grabbed six rebounds for ASU, which is as many as Jordan Bachynski and Ruslan Pateev had combined.
“They got a bunch of gorillas; a bunch of guys who can go and get (the rebound),” Felix said.
Sendek and the ASU coaching staff went with many different lineups including playing Bachynski and Pateev at the same time to try and combat the rebounding problem.
“I thought the primary difference just like our first game (in Washington) was rebounding, ” Sendek said. “It wasn’t until we actually inserted Eric (Jacobsen) that the tide started to shift in our favor a little bit.”
Jacobsen was a bright spot and Sendek praised his physicality and ability to post up. Although he only posted four points and a rebound, he brought a much-needed presence in the paint that was probably to little to late. “Eric was certainly a silver lining for us tonight,” Sendek said. “He had a physical presence that quite frankly our team doesn’t have.”
All eight ASU players that saw the floor played at least ten minutes as ASU fought matchup problems all night. “They consistently made shots up over us,” Sendek said.
Washington shot 48 percent for the game and were led by Scott Suggs who had 16 points followed by Abdul Gaddy and Andrew Andrews who had 13 points a piece. Gaddy had 7 assists as well while committing zero turnovers. Pateev, Carson and Evan Gordon all had 10 points for ASU followed by senior Carrick Felix who had eight points to go along with his six rebounds.
Despite ASU’s tournament hopes being diminished once again, the team is trying to remain positive.
“We have two away games next week…. Thank god we have another game next week so we just gotta go prepare for that”, Felix said. “We just gotta get back to the drawing board, get back to doing the little things… we’re not done yet.”
If Arizona State continues to take the attitude of “what can we say” and they were just better than us, there is no way for this team to improve down the stretch. Even coach Sendek said winning was just a function of playing better, not working harder. Can’t a team always work harder? There is always room for improvement and this passive approach by the Sun Devils is worrisome.
ASU will attempt to keep their NCAA tournament hopes alive when they play at UCLA Wednesday night in the newly renovated Pauley Pavilion in Westwood, California. Tip off is set for 9:30 p.m.