In a game ASU men's basketball desperately needed to win to keep its NCAA Tournament bid hopes alive, the Sun Devils were outscored by Colorado 17-3 over the game's final five minutes and 42 seconds, leading to a 67-59 loss.
Head coach Bobby Hurley said after the game the Buffaloes, who entered the game seventh in Pac-12 standings and 15-12 overall, were simply the better team.
"I just think sometimes in basketball you get beat, outplayed," Hurley said. "I think that was the case. I think they were a fraction better than us."
Colorado's junior forward Tristan da Silva scored 23 points including a dagger 3-pointer to put the Buffaloes up five with just over a minute remaining.
With the loss, ASU falls to 18-9 overall and 9-7 in the Pac-12, tying with Oregon for fifth place in the conference.
ASU was propelled early by a hot start from junior guard DJ Horne, who was 3-4 from the 3-point range for nine points in the game's first seven minutes.
Horne's early offense, as well as 15 combined points from fifth-year guard Desmond Cambridge Jr. and senior guard Devan Cambridge led ASU to a 32-24 lead with almost two minutes left in the first half. ASU then conceded an 8-0 run, including a 3-pointer at the buzzer from Colorado's sophomore guard KJ Simpson to tie the game at 32.
Simpson and da Silva scored all of Colorado's final 14 first half points.
Despite quick starts from Horne and the Cambridge brothers, only five Sun Devils scored in the first half. Reserves Jamiya Neal and Luther Muhammad, sophomore and redshirt senior guards, respectively, each put up four points. Starters sophomore guard Frankie Collins and senior forward Warren Washington each finished the half with zero points.
Washington, who did not play in last weekend's wins over Stanford and Cal due to COVID-19, was back on track early in the second half, scoring or assisting on each of ASU's first three buckets. After Washington looked visibly winded, Hurley took him out of the game after three minutes.
With Washington sitting, ASU's offense lost its spark. After starting the game 5-12, 42% from 3-point range, ASU made just three of its 15 second half 3-point attempts.
In contrast, Colorado, after a poor first half shooting performance, shot 6-13, 46% from three in the second half, including da Silva's three to put the game away late.
In front of ASU basketball legends James Harden, Eddie House and Joe Caldwell, who were all in attendance for the game's finish, ASU was not able to create offense. ASU missed eight of its final nine shots, including a series of critical 3-point attempts by Cambridge Jr. and Horne down the stretch that Hurley took issue with after the game.
"I thought, like, late in the game… those last couple possessions were really bad, like, to end it," Hurley said.
Cambridge Jr. finished the night with 12 points on 5-16 shooting and 2-11 from 3-point range. Horne added 15 points and four rebounds.
ASU entered the night listed in the "Next Four Out" category of ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi's NCAA Tournament projections, and a home loss for a team with a losing in-conference record severely complicates ASU's path to an NCAA Tournament bid.
After the game, Washington remained optimistic about the broader implications of the loss.
"I can't think about that right now, we've got to move on to the next one," Washington said. "We've got a lot of good games coming down on the road, so I feel like our season and our hopes are always going to be there."
Washington's optimism, however, is conditional.
"I feel like when we're making shots, we can beat anybody in the country, just because we have one of the best defenses in the country," he said. "But when we're not making shots it feels like we could lose to anybody in the country."
ASU will face Utah on the team's senior night Saturday in Desert Financial Arena at 4 p.m. MST.
Edited by Piper Hansen.
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