The Utah basketball team traveled to Tempe, Arizona Wednesday night to square off against an improved Arizona State team, hoping to capture its first conference win of the season. Instead, it leaves Tempe for Tucson with an 8-5, 0-1 record after yet another gut-wrenching loss, dropping the critical game 55-54.
The thriller extended to overtime, after Arizona State had possession with :32 remaining in regulation and inexplicably failed to get off a clean shot after mismanaging the shot clock to give the Utes new life in overtime.
Overtime came as no surprise for a game that see-sawed back and forth with eight ties and eight lead changes throughout the course of the contest, which was a one point ASU lead going into halftime.
Senior center Jason Washburn had shown flashes of this kind of ability throughout his career, but may have enjoyed his coming-out party Wednesday night, finishing with 19 points, 18 rebounds and four blocks, all game-highs. Washburn's 19 points and four blocks represented season-highs, while his 18 rebounds was a career-high for the 7-footer.
Senior point guard Jarred DuBois finished the night with 12 points and three assists, hitting a key three pointer to put the Utes up 54-51 with :41 left in overtime. The Utes would give up a quick layup to ASU guard Jahii Carson less than nine seconds later, giving ASU the lead for good, standing at 55-54.
Utah's defense was the key to hanging around, as Utah held Arizona State to 37.1 percent shooting on the night, including a 32 percent (9-28) shooting in the second half. Utah is second in the Pac-12 in scoring defense, allowing an average of 57.1 points per game, limiting Arizona State to just 55 points, well under their 75.2 average on the season.
Continuing the trend of defending the three, Utah ranks second in the Pac-12, holding opponents to an average of 30.7 percent from behind the arc. Wednesday night's performance should improve on even that number, as Utah held the Sun Devils to 22.2 percent (4-18) from long distance, once again well under their 34.7 percent three-point average.
"It was a little difficult, We switched a lot of the pick-and-rolls, so we had smaller guys on their big people," said head coach Larry Krystkowiak on his team's defensive effort. "It's one of the choices that we made and that we have to live with. I was happy with the defense. We held them to their lowest point total in this building."
Washburn's performance aside, Utah suffered several season lows offensively, including its 54 points scored, 34.5 field goal percentage and 27.2 three-point field goal percentage on the night. True freshman Jordan Loveridge contributed nine points, 11 rebounds and three steals, but did so on just 3-11 shooting, while DuBois got his points on 4-13 shooting combining for an inefficient 29.1 field goal percentage.
Although they remained in the game, Utah once again suffered a multi-minute scoring drought spanning from 10:02 in the first half up 15-9. The Utes would not score again until the 5:52 mark, when a DuBois jumper pulled Utah back to within one at 17-18. In that span, Utah missed four shots, committed four fouls and one turnover, while grabbing just one rebound.
The Utes next face the No. 3 ranked Arizona Wildcats Saturday at 3 PM before returning home to host UCLA on January 10 and USC on January 12.