TUCSON — Even before the opening tip, it seemed certain the ASU men’s basketball team was in for a long Thursday night at No. 1 UA.
The Sun Devils (13-5, 2-3 Pac-12) came to Tucson shorthanded as senior guard Jermaine Marshall sat out with a groin injury in ASU’s 91-68 loss to the Wildcats (18-0, 5-0 Pac-12).
Marshall’s 15.6 points per game probably would’ve made the margin closer.
“He’s been in these rivalry games on big games before, so certainly we missed him,” ASU coach Herb Sendek said.
Yet, ASU didn’t make Marshall’s absence much of an excuse. The Sun Devils knew what it was getting into against an opponent with elite talent and athleticism.
UA shot 55.7 percent against ASU and forced the Sun Devils to turn the ball over 18 times.
“Tonight wasn’t a surprise,” Sendek said. “It was only a confirmation (of how talented UA is).”
With Marshall out, ASU leaned onto redshirt sophomore Jahii Carson, who has been battling a slump the last four games.
Carson missed his first six field goals but ended up finishing the game with 20 points on 7-of-19 shooting and five assists. Carson believes he’s starting to climb out of his cold streak.
“It was just going back to the basics, getting back in the gym and getting my confidence and swagger back,” he said. “I think that took a step in the right direction.”
Carson’s statline wasn’t easy to achieve, though. He acknowledged the Wildcats’ frontcourt of sophomore center Kaleb Tarczewski and forwards freshman Aaron Gordon and sophomore Brandon Ashley bothered him with their length.
“It’s tough when there’s three of them down there, and it’s tough especially when the refs aren’t giving you calls that I should’ve got,” Carson said. “It’s nothing I haven’t seen before, but it’s tough when you got three guys, sometimes four, sometimes five out there who are 6’7″, 6’8.””
Although Carson is starting to find his rhythm, ASU’s collective shooting woes continued.
The Sun Devils started the game missing 19 of their first 21 shots, allowing the Wildcats to build a 26-8 lead midway through the first half.
Carson finally got going by hitting two free throws with 8:29 left in the first half and followed it up with a jumper shortly after. Carson built on his groove by getting a fastbreak and-one to go.
ASU went on an 11-4 run to close out the half while UA only made one of its final five shots, cutting the Wildcats’ halftime lead to 42-28.
That was the closest ASU got to turning the game around. After halftime, UA continued to dominate the Sun Devils inside, particularly on defense.
“In the second half, we were too easy to score against,” Sendek said.
UA junior guard Nick Johnson led the Wildcats’ scoring with 17 points as all five of the Wildcats’ starters scored in double digits. Freshman forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and sophomore guard Gabe York had 11 and 10 points, respectively.
The Sun Devils had a surprise performance from redshirt junior guard Bo Barnes, who scored 12 of his 13 points in the second half and went 3-of-5 from the 3-point line.
Kearney, who started in Marshall’s place at shooting guard, and senior center Jordan Bachynski only had three points.
After suffering road blowouts to No. 25 UCLA and UA in back-to-back games, ASU’s status as in the Pac-12 and its NCAA Tournament hopes are in question.
The Sun Devils aren’t panicking, yet. Bachynski said the loss actually encouraged ASU by how players like Barnes stepped up, and that they can build from this experience.
“Obviously, there are things we can improve on, but I think we’re a great team,” Bachynski said. “We’re not showing it right now, but we will.”
- Lost in the blowout was Bachynski’s milestone in blocks. His first block of the game put him second in Pac-12 career blocks, passing UA’s Channing Frye. He now has 260.
- Johnson scored his 1,000th career point on a 3-pointer in the first half.
- Sophomore forward Sai Tummala wore a boot on his left ankle after hurting it in Tuesday’s practice and did not play.
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Because of a reporting error, sophomore forward Brandon Ashley and sophomore center Kaleb Tarczewski were incorrectly identified.