The ASU men’s basketball team has five of its last seven games on the road.
ASU begins the brutal finish to the regular season at Utah Wednesday.
Yes the Sun Devils (18-6, 7-4 Pac-12) play a conference game on Wednesday, rather than the typical Thursday night contest.
Senior wing Carrick Felix said he likes the short week.
“It’s actually been good,” Felix said. “We’ve been a lot more focused in practice and we definitely have high energy going into this week. I think the guys are ready and definitely the coaching staff are going over stuff in great detail so I think we’ll be ready.”
It helps that ASU has already faced the Utes (10-13, 2-9 Pac-12) earlier this season. In its Pac-12 opener, the Sun Devils defeated the Utes 55-54 in overtime.
Felix contributed a double-double in the win, 17 points and 13 rebounds, but the Utes were active on defense. The Sun Devils shot 37.1 percent in the game.
Felix said the Utes were switching defenders on all ball screens, which it difficult for ASU to attack.
“They were making us take shots that we didn’t want to take switching their defenders on our bigger defenders, which made different matchups but it made us once again take quicker shots,” Felix said. “We don’t want to settle for those.”
The Sun Devils weren’t the only team to struggle against the team tied for last place in the Pac-12.
The Utes lost to four conference teams by five points or less, including UCLA, Cal and at Arizona. They led 30-22 at halftime at Oregon until the Ducks scored 51 points in the second half to pull away 73-64.
“They went to Washington and won,” coach Herb Sendek said. “They beat Colorado. They lost seven games by five points or less. They had a shot to beat us here. They had a shot to win at Arizona. The difference between the teams in our league depend on that given moment more than that given night.”
Felix wasn’t the only player in these teams’ first matchup with a double-double.
Utah senior center Jason Washburn had 19 points, on 8-of-15 shooting and 18 rebounds. He has recorded four double-doubles this season. Washburn had his first 20-point game this season against Oregon shooting 9-of-13 from the floor.
Washburn had two chances around the rim to give Utah the lead late in the game, but the ball didn’t go through the cylinder. The win sparked ASU to a 3-0 start in conference play.
“It definitely gives us some confidence but at the same time, you never know,” Felix said. “You never want to go to a game overly confident. With the mindset that it’s going to be a 40-minute game and I think that’s the most important thing.”
Yet the Sun Devils have lost two of its last three games, including a 62-59 loss to Stanford Saturday.
With seven games left, the Sun Devils can’t afford to lose to Utah if it wants a shot at an NCAA Tournament bid. It would be damaging to their RPI and they already have very little margin for error down the stretch.
Tip-off is at 6 p.m. on the Pac-12 Network and 620 AM.
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CORRECTION: Due to an error the story said the game was at 7 p.m. It actually starts at 6 p.m.