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ASU basketball set to face Utah in the last Pac-12 Tournament without Jose Perez

No. 11 seed ASU will face No. 6 seed Utah in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament on Wednesday


ASU graduate student guard Jose Perez (12) looks up during a free throw at Desert Financial Arena on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024 in Tempe. ASU lost 84-82.

After a grueling season, the ASU men's basketball team has one more game on the calendar — a matchup with Utah in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament.

No. 11 seed Arizona State will face No. 6 seed Utah at 8:30 p.m. on March 13 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The winner will face No. 3 seed Colorado in the quarterfinals at the same time the next day. 

ASU concluded its final Pac-12 regular season disappointingly. After beating No. 21 Washington State, the Sun Devils proceeded to lose three straight games to UA, USC and UCLA. The Sun Devils finished the season at 14-17 overall and 8-12 in conference play. 

On the other hand, the Utes come into the game at 18-13 overall and 9-11 in conference play. Utah wrapped up its regular season slate with back-to-back close losses against Oregon State and Oregon. 

Utah is led by fifth-year center Branden Carlson, who averages a team-leading 17.5 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. The seven-footer is backed up in scoring by senior guard Gabe Madsen, who averages 13.3 points. While they lead the team in scoring, senior guard Deivon Smith runs the offense and earned a team-high 146 assists this season. 

ASU will have a hard time keeping up with Carlson as sophomore center Shawn Phillips Jr. hasn't made a significant impact on the glass, averaging just 3.2 rebounds per game. Meanwhile, graduate forward Alonzo Gaffney mostly patrols the perimeter, despite shooting just 25.6% from beyond the arc. 

Somehow, ASU's slim chances of making a deep run in the conference tournament got even longer. 

Senior transfer guard Jose Perez left the team before the final regular season game at UCLA. Perez said that he chose to leave ASU early to get ahead in his career due to personal family circumstances.

"There are no hard feelings between me and anyone at Arizona State, and this was solely my decision to be made," Perez said in a statement on his Instagram account. "It is what I felt was best for my family at this time."

Jose Perez has since made his debut for Club Plaza Valerio in the Dominican Republic.

Perez's departure leaves a gaping hole in ASU's already sluggish offense. His absence was felt in the team’s last loss against UCLA. The Sun Devils went into the locker room leading 31-27 but fell apart in the second half, shooting 5-22 from the field while getting outscored 32-16.

Perez wasn't seen at UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion during warmups. ASU head coach Bobby Hurley reacted to his withdrawal from the team after the 59-47 loss.

"He’s decided to take a position overseas, so he'll be playing overseas the remainder of the season," Hurley said.

The loss of Perez is a major blow, but history is on the Sun Devils' side. They beat the Utes twice in the regular season. However, Perez led the team in scoring in both games with 21 and 26 points. ASU will have to find a way to keep up with Utah without their key scorer.

Edited by Alfred Smith III, Shane Brennan and Caera Learmonth.

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