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ASU crushed by Utah in first round of final Pac-12 Tournament

The Sun Devils finished the season losing 13 of their last 17 games, including tonight's 90-57 defeat against Utah


ASU redshirt junior guard Adam Miller (44) across from a Utah player during the Pac-12 Tournament at T-Mobile Arena on Wednesday, March 13, 2024 in Las Vegas, NV. ASU lost 90-57.

In the Pac-12 tournament’s swan song, Arizona State’s season ends in the first round after falling to Utah 90-57, despite sweeping the regular season series. 

The Utes came out of the gate with a shooting onslaught, led by graduate guard Cole Bajema, who scored 14 first-half points. Bajema got the Utes offense rolling early and shot a scorching 4-6 from 3-point land to help Utah maintain a comfortable cushion over the Sun Devils throughout the game. 

The Utes couldn’t miss in the first half. Utah finished the first period shooting an astronomically hot 70% from the field while slicing the Sun Devils up from three, shooting 50% as a team.

ASU had a completely different first half for all the wrong reasons. The Sun Devils needed to fire on all cylinders to keep pace with the high-powered Utes, but they couldn’t seem to buy a basket. ASU shot just 30.3% from the floor and an abysmal 12.5% from three-point territory in the half.

"They were just a better team," junior guard Adam Miller said. "I feel bad for all my teammates in their last year, like Zo (Gaffney), and Bobby (Hurley Jr.). I just feel bad for going out there and putting on a performance like that for guys who won’t have a chance again. We just got our ass kicked."

It seemed like things couldn’t get any worse, but then they did. A timeout on the floor with over four minutes to play in the half led to fireworks on the ASU bench. Graduate forward Alonzo Gaffney yelled at his teammates before walking away from head coach Bobby Hurley’s scrum in frustration. Right when Hurley needed his players to come together, the team showed signs of falling apart.

ASU’s defense struggled with reigning in Utah’s lanky shooters when the team went down double digits. The chatty Sun Devils talked on defense early in the half to call out mismatches and assignments, but they sat mute as Utes poured in three after three as the half continued. Utah built its lead to 25 by halftime off a 12-point scoring run.

The second half was the same story. ASU couldn’t trim Utah’s huge lead and even went down by 35 late. The Sun Devils slowed down the Utes offense, but ran into their own offensive struggles that kept them down and out.

"You just have a vision for something better, you know," Hurley said. "If that’s going to be our lasting memory of us playing in the Pac-12, wow, that’s a terrible, terrible ending." 

Bajema scored eight more points in the second half to finish as the Utes' leading scorer with 22 points. The Pac-12's leader in triple-doubles, Utah senior guard Deivon Smith, played a complete game, scoring 15 points to go along with 10 rebounds and nine assists. 

Junior guard Frankie Collins, the Pac-12 All-Defensive honoree, led ASU in scoring with 20 points on 8-20 shooting. 

This bitter loss ends the Sun Devils' season at a 14-18 record, where they lost six out of their last seven games. Now, the future poses questions about what the potential makeup of the Sun Devil basketball team could look like going forward and Hurley’s tenure in Tempe.

In the post-game press conference, Hurley cited a plethora of his coaching philosophies that fans and media could pick apart but stood confident in his ability to lead the Sun Devils into the future despite "failing miserably" in tonight’s historic loss.

"This is not a reflection of our belief system in terms of effort and will and knowing your season is on the line and having to play for your season," Hurley said. "So that’s my responsibility, and I failed miserably. So that will be the primary prerequisite as I start evaluating what needs to get done to rebuild our team."

Edited by Shane Brennan and Angelina Steel.

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