Pac-12 Conference play opened up on Thursday night for the Arizona State Sun Devils and the Utah Utes. Both teams looking to put their own stamp on a conference that is wide open.
Arizona State made their statement early and often. The Sun Devil offense looked sharp. Remy Martin, who started the game, led the way in the first half of play with 14 points. Martin was hitting shots and getting the ball into the hands of Arizona State’s other scorers too. Martin had four assists in the first half which quadruple the amount he had the entire game against Princeton.
With 11:24 left in the first half the Sun Devils had control of this game. Arizona State was up 21-9 at that point.
On the other side of the court, Utah, looked like the young team that they are. The starting line up for the Utes included two freshmen. Timmy Allen and Riley Battin both freshmen are hoping to contribute often for this Ute team. Allen, who is from Mesa, Arizona, looked pretty good in the first half with 10 points in 18 minutes of play.
However, Utah was struggling to shoot the ball. The Utes shot poorly to start this game and it made you wonder if the Sun Devils were just going to run away and hide.
With 7:46 left in the half Arizona State had a 31-16 lead and were getting whatever they wanted from an offensive point of view. Utah just could not hit anything.
The Sun Devil lead got to 17 points. Remember that fact.
Basketball can be a funny game. One minute you can’t make a bucket to save your life. The next minute you shoot your way back into the game.
By the time the horn sounded for halftime the Utes had crept back into the game. Utah was only down 43-39 at the half.
The control the Sun Devils had on the game disappeared. Arizona State had fallen in love with the three point shot and those shots were not in dropping for the Sun Devils. The Sun Devils ended the first half only shooting 43% from the field and a paltry 63% from the free throw line.
This was turning into a movie that I had seen many times with Arizona State.
Utah opened the second half hitting a three pointer and from there the Utes couldn’t miss anything.
Less than five minutes into the second half the Utah Utes had a 56-49 lead and the double digit lead the Sun Devils had in the first half was distant memory. Once again, the Sun Devils were trying to get back into the game all at once by hoisting up three point shots.
It was not working. This Sun Devil isn’t exactly built to get back into games that way.
Utah was playing fast and loose. They were playing like they had nothing to lose.
Arizona State was making basketball look real difficult. The Sun Devils were forcing shots up. Utah was getting good looks at the basket with a well run offense.
The Utah trio of Sedrick Barefield, Parker Van Dyke, and Donnie Tillman did the Sun Devils in by getting hot from the field.
Barefield, Van Dyke, and Tillman combined for 42 of the Utes 57 second half points. These three players also took the only three pointers in the second half and were 10-16 combined. When you shoot nearly 63% from behind the arc you will most of your games.
Every time the Sun Devils had some sort of mini run, the Utes would counter the run by hitting a crowd silencing shot. Any kind of life the Sun Devils had left was taken away by the shooting of the Utes.
When the final buzzer sounded, the Utes had claimed a 96-86 win on the road.
Overhearing people say that the Sun Devils are the better team made me chuckle. If the Sun Devils were the better team, they would have not lost a 17 point lead. Period.
Good teams don’t do that. I know the conference schedule is long and arduous, but the Sun Devils have some work to do to get this season straightened out. This was a bad loss for them.
However, this was a great win for the Utah Utes. The Utes have work to do as well, but coming back from 17 down was a great confidence builder for Utah.
This is a wide open Pac-12 Conference and tonight was a perfect example of that fact.