ASU men's basketball looked to bounce back after a stunning loss to Princeton last week, but instead fell 96-86 to Utah in Wells Fargo Arena to start Pac-12 play.
The Sun Devils started off strong early in the first half, leading the Utes by double digits, but began losing momentum heading into the second half.
“If the game would have ended after 12 minutes, it would be been great for us,” said ASU coach Bobby Hurley.
ASU (9-4, 0-1 Pac-12) started with an improved offensive energy against Utah, building a solid advantage behind sophomore guard Remy Martin, who started 6-for-6 from the field, redshirt sophomore forward Romello White and freshman guard Luguentz Dort. Early on, ASU had a 21-9 lead and each Sun Devil had seven points.
In the first half, ASU shot 17-for-35 from the field, including 6-for-17 on 3-pointers, which was a much-needed improvement from the performance against Princeton.
While ASU led the game 43-32 near halftime, it had squandered its early double-digit lead and started losing momentum to the Utes late in the first half.
After starting rather slow, Utah went into halftime on a 7-0 run, cutting the deficit to 43-39, which Hurley said gave Utah confidence.
“It was frustrating because it was a game that we had control of, and, then, we allowed them to cut the lead to four at the half,” Hurley said. “Then, it kind of snowballed from there.”
Utah (7-6, 1-0 Pac-12) took that momentum into the second half, taking a 10-point lead early. The team continued to find a rhythm from the 3-point line, especially from senior guard Parker Van Dyke, senior guard Sedrick Barefield and sophomore forward Donnie Tillman.
ASU redshirt senior forward Zylan Cheatham echoed Hurley, saying that ASU didn’t play as it did early on.
“In my opinion, we reverted back to our old ways,” Cheatham said. “We started playing losing basketball and making losing basketball plays offensively and unfortunately it crept into our defense. … it definitely cost us.”
Although ASU improved offensively from Saturday night against Princeton, facing a 2-3 zone, it had relatively no answer for Utah on defense, especially after halftime as the Utes scored 57 points. Barefield ended with a game-high 24 points, while Tillman had 22, Van Dyke added 13, and freshman forward Timmy Allen finished with 17.
Martin finished with a career-high 22 points, and ASU had three other players end with at least 14 points.
Cheatham said even though there is frustration, ASU cannot soak with sorrow after back-to-back losses to teams he and the team didn’t expect to fall short against. Cheatham said the team is still confident.
However, Hurley said he knows his team has to play better and get back on track.
“We haven’t defended like that all year,” Hurley said. “I am going to have to really take a look at what was going on and why all these things are happening.”