ASU sophomore forward Jonathan Gilling experienced the longest four seconds of his life Wednesday.
The Sun Devils (12-2, 1-0 Pac-12) defeated Utah 55-54 in overtime at Wells Fargo Arena. Their Pac-12 opener turned out to be a wild finish. The Utes (8-5, 0-1 Pac-12) had multiple opportunities to take the lead in the final moments of the game, including two missed put backs in the final four seconds.
“Welcome to conference basketball I guess,” Sendek said.
Redshirt freshman point guard Jahii Carson struggled from the floor all game, but made two clutch shots to tie the game in regulation and win it in overtime. Carson sunk a wide-opener three-point shot with 1:01 left in regulation to tie it at 49.
The Sun Devils had a chance to win the game in regulation but got off a bad shot. Carson dribbled the shot clock down to its final seconds before he made his move following a timeout. As he reached the top of the arc, he called timeout again with two seconds left on the shot clock. Carson got the ball back on the inbounds and chucked up a prayer that skimmed the front rim.
“I was waiting for the time to wind down and just iso,” Carson said. “As soon as they saw that, they switched into a 3-2 or a 1-2-2 zone. I don’t know what it was but I didn’t feel comfortable. I didn’t want to take a bad shot.”
Carson came through again down one with 41 seconds left in overtime. He drove right off a ball screen from senior center Ruslan Pateev and kissed the floater off the glass. Carson scored 15 points on 5-of-18 shooting and had four assists in 44 minutes.
“He just has a great capacity, as do most great players, of staying in the present,” Sendek said. “He believes in himself, and I think he knows we believe in him. He just has a great capacity of just letting whatever happened go and make the next play, which is a real gift.”
Pateev came off the bench and contributed four points, three rebounds and two blocks in 14 minutes. While his numbers don’t pop out, he played well on the defensive end and helped ASU secure the win in the final seconds. He had a key block on senior guard Jarred DuBois with 12 seconds left.
“We don’t win the game without Ruslan’s performance,” Sendek said. “I don’t know if I’ve ever been as proud of a player as I am of him because he’s all in no matter what.”
The Utes shot 34 percent from the floor but got a big boost from senior center Jason Washburn. He scored a game-high 19 points and 18 rebounds despite the consistent, “Washburn sucks!” chants from the student section.
The Sun Devils weren’t any better offensively, shooting just 37.1 percent from the floor. Senior wing Carrick Felix led the team with 17 points and 13 rebounds. Junior forward Jordan Bachynski added 14 points and eight rebounds.
“There’s nothing wrong with sometimes winning ugly,” Sendek said. “We just tried to focus our guys on that kind of thing as the game came down the home stretch and try to stay on the play that was happening now. I just thought our guys really battled, and they did all the way through to the last couple inbounds plays.”
The Sun Devils have now won four straight and will look to add to the streak against Colorado Saturday. Tip-off is at 6 p.m. on the Pac-12 Network.
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