Arizona State Basketball: Was the Pac-12 Opener vs. Utah a Bad Omen or a Fluke?

USA Today Sports

USA Today Sports

Arizona State Basketball opened up Pac-12 Conference play at home hosting the 8-4 Utah Runnin’ Utes—and it was ugly.

The Sun Devils needed an extra overtime period to dispatch the Utes 55-54. The Utes came into the game averaging 69.4 points a game—and the Sun Devils 75.2—but those numbers were far from obtained Wednesday night.

The night started off quickly for Arizona State center Jordan Bachynski, who scored the first four points of the game. Then the Sun Devils fell asleep, allowing the Runnin’ Utes to score the next nine unanswered.

An offensive struggle by both teams, neither team shot above 40 percent in the first half as the Sun Devils took a 26-25 lead into the intermission. Freshman sensation JahiiCarson struggled mightily from the field, hitting only 2 of 8 shots, including an abysmal 0-of-3 from beyond the arc.

The game was strange all over.

The nation’s No. 3 blocker, Jordan Bachynski, who averages 4.5 blocks per game, had a grand total of zero going into the intermission. Another anomaly was that the team’s third-leading scorer, Evan Gordon, only took two shots in the first half—missing both of them.

The Sun Devils needed to come back strong in the second half and pull away from the Utes, but instead they performed even worse in the second stanza. They scored 25 points on 9-of-28 shooting, including 1-of-8 from three-point territory. Fortunately, that super shot came when the Devils needed it most—down the stretch from Jahii Carson.

The game was carried in the final minutes by reserve center Ruslan Pateev, who came in for the injured starter, Bachynski. Pateev only scored four points in the game but came up big to block the Runnin’ Utes’ last-ditch effort to win the game in the final seconds of overtime.

USA Today Sports

USA Today Sports

Coach Herb Sendek is not going to be happy when he watches the game tape; on several occasions there was sloppy play, missed assignments and an overall lack of communication.

One play that stands out glaringly was when the Sun Devils inbounded their final possession of regulation with the game tied at 49. Freshman point guard Jahii Carson dribbled down court and did nothing—absolutely nothing—with the ball. He eventually called timeout with three seconds left on the game clock and six seconds left in regulation.

The true bright spot on the team was senior swingman Carrick Felix, who finished with 17 points and 13 rebounds. He added three assists, two steals and a block in key junctures of the game.

One thing is for sure: If the Sun Devils go any farther in conference play with games like they had in their season opener, they can kiss any chances of a winning season goodbye. As it stands right now, they are 12-2 overall and a half-game in first place in the Pac-12.

I hope they enjoy it while it lasts.

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