After weathering through a dismal first half shooting performance, the Sun Devils surged back to lead by as many as eight in the second half, including a six point cushion following a Jahii Carson lay-up with just three minutes remaining in the game. But a Brandon Taylor three point basket, would close the gap to one and a Jason Washburn baseline lay-up would put the Utes in front with just 1:26 to go.
Still, trailing by three but with a chance to tie, a fifth personal foul on freshman Jahii Carson with 16 seconds remaining would spell the end for Arizona State (18-7, 7-5), as Washburn knocked down another pair of free throws, sending the Utes to their third conference victory of the season and avenging a narrow defeat to the Sun Devils in the two teams' first meeting of the year.
Despite the spirited efforts of seniors Carrick Felix and Chris Colvin, the Sun Devils shot just 2-10 from the field down the stretch, dropping their second consecutive game and severely affecting their postseason aspirations.
“There were just things that didn’t make a whole lot of sense when we had fouled outside the lanes with 11 seconds on the shot clock, another foul at the end of the shot clock out front with the three seconds," said Head Coach Herb Sendek afterwards. "I think that resulted in four points. They [Utah] weren’t in the best of situations. But to their credit they made a nice three up top and then finished the game. We didn’t finish the game the way we needed to.”
Utah (11-13, 3-9) was led by the senior Washburn, who scored a game-high 26 points on 9-12 shooting, to go along with nine rebounds and two blocks. For the second consecutive outing the Sun Devils struggled against the opponent's frontcourt line as Washburn was aided by Jared Loveridge's 13 points and six rebounds.
The Utes jumped ahead early, leading by as many as nine points in the first half, while limiting ASU to just 35% shooting. Utah had its way against the Sun Devils down low, outscoring Arizona State 18-6 in the paint in the opening frame, with Washburn pouring 15 points before halftime.
“He absolutely had his way with us," said Sendek. "Twenty six (points) at the end of the night, with just a terrific high energy. He also has experience.”
After trailing 29-22 at the break, the Sun Devils came out energized to start the second half with Felix and Colvin leading the charge, outscoring the Utes 27-12 as they raced out to their eight point lead. Despite only scoring three points in the first half, Felix would go on to lead all Sun Devils in scoring with 14 points and a team-high 11 rebounds. It marked the fifth double-double for Felix in the team's last seven games and his tenth for the season, second most in the Pac-12.
Colvin provided a spark of the bench within his defensive tenacity and relentless hustle, notching 10 points, six rebounds and four assists in the loss. It was just the third double-digit scoring performance of the season for Colvin and his first since November 18th against Florida A&M.
Carson, who fouled out for the first time all season, struggled with 12 points, two rebounds, one assists and six turnovers against the stingy Utah defense.
For the second consecutive game the Sun Devils cost themselves a chance to win with poor shooting, converting only four of their ten attempts. Meanwhile, the Utes were 17-23 from the charity stripe.
The Sun Devils will now have two days before facing Colorado on Saturday. So far this season Arizona State has managed to earn in every road series they've played so far this season, but will face a Buffalo team who entering the week is 12-0 at home this year.
"We don’t have any easy games," said Sendek. "You’ve got to play really well to win. Sometimes you play really well and still don’t win.”