Sometimes, it’s good for teams to have a short memory.
After the ASU men’s basketball team had one of its worst performances in an 86-63 loss at Utah on Sunday, the Sun Devils (19-8, 8-6 Pac-12) insisted they’ve moved on and are now focused on their upcoming homestand against Stanford on Wednesday and California on Friday.
Many people outside the team began to doubt the Sun Devils’ tournament hopes after the loss at Utah, but no one on the team thinks they are under a lot of pressure yet.
“We know we’re on a good place as far as making it in the (NCAA) Tournament and that we need more wins and we have to take care of business,” ASU redshirt sophomore point guard Jahii Carson said. “Our goal is set. We know we can make some noise in the Pac-12 Tournament. We’re just thinking about that right now.”
ASU coach Herb Sendek said the team still talks about its goal of making the NCAA Tournament in every meeting, but in order to remain the hunt, the Sun Devils must stick to their usual approach of taking it one game at a time.
“We can’t play in the NCAA Tournament (right now),” Sendek said. “All we can do is play Stanford.”
ASU previously played both the Cardinal (18-8, 9-5 Pac-12) and the Bears (18-9, 9-5 Pac-12) on the road three weeks ago, each being close games. Thanks to senior guard Jermaine Marshall’s game tying 3-pointer with 17 seconds left in regulation, the Sun Devils beat California 89-78 in overtime Jan. 30.
Stanford got the best of ASU on Feb. 1 with its size and outrebounded the Sun Devils 40-32 en route to a 76-70 win.
Cardinal sophomore forward Dwight Powell had a career-high 28 points, five assists and five rebounds in the first meeting against ASU.
ASU senior center Jordan Bachynski’s familiarity with Powell goes further than playing against each other in the collegiate ranks. They played together on Team Canada at the World University Games last summer, and Bachynski knows Powell will get his numbers.
“He’s a great player,” Bachynski said. “He can score outside and on the inside, but I feel if we play our defense and get back to our packed defense to where we’re helping each other out, I feel like we’re going to be good.”
“They’re one of the most talented teams, man-for-man, in our league,” Sendek said. “Obviously, everybody recognizes the high talent quotient that Arizona has, but Stanford is an elite team. They have five guys who are very versatile, great-length and can score the ball in a variety of ways. They’re a difficult team to defend.”
The Cardinal are on a three-game winning streak that includes an 83-74 win over No. 23 UCLA on Feb. 22. The Golden Bears have won three out of their last four, the lone loss being an 86-66 loss to the Bruins on Feb. 19. California was the only team other than ASU to have defeated No. 3 UA this season.
With the added significance of this week’s pair of games, it almost seems forgotten that Saturday will be the last time Carson, Bachynski, Marshall and senior guard Shaquielle McKissic will play at Wells Fargo Arena, barring a fallout from the NCAA Tournament into the NIT.
The departing players would like to keep it that way, as they have more important things to worry about.
“I’m trying not to think about it,” Bachynski said. “If I think about it too much, I’ll get emotional, so I have to keep it in the back of my mind.”
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @Josh_Nacion