The ASU men’s basketball team’s climb up the NCAA tournament mountain just got steeper Wednesday.
The Sun Devils (18-7, 7-5 Pac-12) fell to Utah 60-55 in a loss they couldn’t afford up in the Rocky Mountains.
The Utes (11-13, 3-9 Pac-12) outscored the Sun Devils 13-2 in the final 2:39. Senior center Jason Washburn scored on a reverse layup to give Utah a 54-53 lead with 1:26 left. The Utes held on making all six attempted free throws in the final 32 seconds.
Washburn tied a career-high 26 points on 9-of-12 shooting. He dominated ASU in the paint in the first half. The Utes scored 18 of their 29 first half points in paint to take a seven-point lead at halftime.
Assistant coach Larry Greer said ASU had trouble matching up against Washburn in a postgame radio interview.
“Our centers allowed him to get to the baseline,” Greer said. “We talk about not giving up angles, and he got angles to the basket. We had to go and try and trap him, but because he goes baseline, it’s hard to get to him.”
ASU overcame its horrid offensive start and took a 39-37 lead with 11:05 left on senior wing Carrick Felix’s three-pointer. It was part of a 15-5 run in four minutes during the second half where Felix gave his team a jolt.
He finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds.
Senior guard Chris Colvin also contributed 10 points off the bench in 26 minutes to help ASU take the lead. Colvin was able to guard junior guard Jarred DuBois. That allowed Felix to cover freshman forward Jordan Loveride, who had 13 points and six rebounds.
“He brings us energy,” Greer said of Colvin. “We think he’s our second best defender behind Carrick.”
Redshirt freshman point guard Jahii Carson scored four of his 10 points on consecutive possessions to give ASU a 53-47 lead with three minutes left.
It was at that point when ASU’s offense looked as inefficient as it did to start the game and Utah went on its run to take the lead.
Utah sealed the win when it drew an offense foul on Carson with 17 seconds left up 58-55. Carson fouled out of the game and DuBois sunk both of his free-throws to stretch lead to 60-55.
“We have a young group of guys in certain areas and I think they got caught up in the fact that we were having trouble scoring,” Greer said. “They kind of took it to the other end.
The Sun Devils couldn’t afford an weak RPI loss with seven games left in the regular season before Wednesday contest. Utah was No. 178 in RPI on RealTimeRPI.com before the game. The loss will drop ASU’s RPI — a significant ranking the selection committee looks at during the tournament process.
Their road only gets more difficult from here. The Sun Devils will get a few days off before they play at Colorado Saturday.
“I learned something a while ago — at 12:01, it’s a new day, and that’s how you have to take it win or lose,” Greer said. “We have to come back with a sense of urgency against Colorado.”
Tip-off is at 7 p.m. on ESPNU and 620 AM.
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