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Sidebar: First-round exit in Pac-12 Tournament might be the end for ASU men's basketball

Colorado's freshman guard McKinley Wright IV nearly laid a triple-double on ASU

Free Throw
ASU senior guard Kodi Justice (44) shooting a free throw at the Pac-12 Men's Basketball Tournament while playing Colorado at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada on Wednesday, March 7, 2018.

It took 67 days. ASU men’s basketball devolved from the No. 3 team in the country with endless national spotlight to a team exiting its conference tournament in the first round. 

The Sun Devils 97-85 loss to the Colorado Buffaloes on Wednesday in Las Vegas is ASU’s first double-digit defeat of the year.

It’s chalked up as the team's fifth loss in 20 days.

In less than a month, ASU’s losses featured opposing star players, defensive miscues and a handful of other reasons. ASU’s collapse versus Colorado was a concoction of horrific free throw shooting, defensive mistakes and the dominance of a Colorado freshman.

The Sun Devils shot a season-worst 57.1 percent from the charity stripe on Wednesday afternoon, and nine missed free throws separated ASU from its worst loss of the year to a one-possession game.

“I don’t think it was more offensive,” freshman guard Remy Martin said. “I think it was more defensive. We have got to pay more attention on defense, and I kind of take the blame for that. Some of the mistakes were my fault, but our offensive is never a problem, it’s always defensive.”

Inefficiency from the line didn’t make catching Colorado freshman guard McKinley Wright IV any easier.

In Wright’s first Pac-12 Tournament game he stuffed the stat sheet with 20 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists. 

"I just tried to stress to my teammates that I didn't want to let the seniors go out like this," Wright said. "We didn't want to be back in Boulder tonight."

Wright was only two rebounds away from becoming the second player to record a triple-double in Pac-12 Tournament history.

With selection Sunday looming, the Sun Devils are leaning heavily on wins over expected No. 1 seeds Xavier and Kansas. 

However, ASU got carved up from behind the arc by a non-tournament team in the Buffaloes (61.9 percent).

The Sun Devils had an opportunity to prove themselves as still worthy of a trip to the Big Dance by beating UA. Instead, freshman forward DeAndre Ayton feasted. 

When ASU lost to the Wildcats a couple weeks ago, a small fire was started. One that began to burn their chances as an NCAA Tournament team. 

It has grown more ferocious with losses to both Oregon schools, a defeat on senior day to Stanford and now a rough game versus Colorado.

In ASU's three previous losses the same miscues reared their heads. Oregon's shooters put the Sun Devils to bed in late-night contest. The maroon and gold were no match for Oregon State's sophomore forward Tres Tinkle. To cap it off, Stanford outlasted ASU when the Sun Devils couldn't sink free throws.

Nevertheless, head coach Bobby Hurley hasn’t wavered in his belief that the Sun Devils will see their names on Selection Sunday.

“I felt like we were in the tournament coming into this game regardless of the outcome,” Hurley said. “We were the last undefeated team in college basketball … we beat two regular season conference champions and most likely No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament. And we did it pretty handily in those games."

Reach the reporter at or follow @Anthony_Totri on Twitter.   

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