No. 4 Arizona State avoids a scare on the road, barely escapes Utah
By TJ Mathewson // Men’s Basketball Beat Writer for Blaze Sports
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Most things don’t come easy on the road, especially in conference play, and ASU felt the brunt of that in their 80-77 win at Utah on Sunday, their first conference win of the season and their first win at Utah in 43 years.
The go-ahead miss by Ute’s senior guard Justin Bibbins might still be rolling around on the rim deciding whether or not to go in, if it followed the rules of how this game was going for both teams.
Bibbins was a menace all game long for Utah (10-5, 2-2 PAC-12), pouring in 22 points and six assists and was 12 of 13 from the free-throw line.
Sophomore forward Mickey Mitchell nailed two clutch free throws in the waning seconds of the second half after getting fouled on a drive to the basket. That gave ASU the lead it needed to finish off the Utes.
It was a back-and-forth game the whole way, Arizona State (13-2, 1-2 PAC-12) jumped out to an 8-0 and 10-2 lead in the early minutes. This of the polar opposite of the last time ASU visited Utah, a game in which Utah started the game on a 30-2 run.
Utah fought back to take a 36-35 lead at halftime, then ASU rattled off an 8-0 run right out of the break to take the lead back. The teams would trade leads right up until the final horn sounded.
Besides the last-minute sequence by both teams, the story of the game was fouls. An astronomical 50 total fouls were called.
31 of those fouls were against ASU, causing ASU’s three main post players, Romello White, De’Quon Lake and Vitaliy Shibel, to all foul out.
The foul trouble got so bad that ASU had to rely on a small-ball lineup for the majority of the second half, forcing Kimani Lawrence and Mickey Mitchell to play out of position.
Utah still got called for 19 fouls on the evening, but the number seemed smaller compared to the number for ASU.
Shannon Evans, who entered the game missing his last 14 threes, broke out of his shooting slump to lead the team in points with 22, while hitting 5 of 7 three-pointers.
Kodi Justice added in his second 20-point game of the season on 9 of 15 shooting.
Kimani Lawrence scored his first field goal as a Sun Devil on a tough and-one midway through the second half. He finished with three points.
Don’t expect the Sun Devils to drop too far in the AP Poll when it comes out on Monday despite its 1-1 record on the week, with many of the top teams on college basketball falling over the weekend.
ASU will return home to “The Bank” on Thursday night when they take on Oregon. The game can be heard on Blaze Radio Online Mixlr with Killian McClatchey and Zach Pekale on the call.
TJ Mathewson is a beat writer for Blaze Sports covering ASU Men’s Basketball. You can reach out to him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow TJ on Twitter @TJMathewson.