Sun Devils Fall Just Short of Comeback at Washington
By Andrew Bell // Men’s Basketball Beat Writer for Blaze Sports
SEATTLE, Wash. — With 35 seconds left and possession of the basketball, No. 25 ASU (16-6, 4-6 Pac-12) had a chance to tie or pull out a victory down by two points against the Washington Huskies at the Alaska Airlines Arena on Thursday night.
Unfortunately for the Sun Devils, the bid at any late-game heroics was squandered by a turnover within the final seconds that led to a 68-64 Washington victory.
With the game clock winding down, ASU sophomore forward Mickey Mitchell drove down the baseline looking for redshirt forward Romello White for a shot attempt under the bucket.
Mitchell left his feet to drop off the pass, and no one was home except for a swarm of white jerseys to steal the basketball and seal the win.
“We had it out of bounds and nothing materialized from that,” ASU head coach Bobby Hurley said. “We wanted to just be in motion, and the ball was thrown to [Mitchell] and he drove baseline, left his feet and didn’t have anywhere to go. It wasn’t a great possession.”
While it might be easy to point fingers, the play was just one microcosm of a big picture that led to an ASU loss.
The Sun Devils had 15 turnovers and they left six points at the free throw line (11-17 FT’s), a recipe that is not ideal when it comes to trying to secure road victories in hostile environments. At the half, ASU trailed by 10 points before eventually rallying back in the last 20 minutes of play.
“You can’t play this come from behind style, especially on the road,” Hurley said. “You put so much energy to get a lead, and games are won and lost at all different parts of the game. It’s when you turn the ball over like we did in the first half.”
ASU was out rebounded 37-32, and Washington junior forward Noah Dickerson had a field day in the post, tallying 21 points and grabbing 16 rebounds.
Although Dickerson was a posing interior presence, the final stretch of the game was ultimately controlled by Washington junior guard David Crisp.
Crisp finished the game with 12 points on 6-13 shooting, but it was the timing of his points that proved to be crucial, with 10 of his 12 points coming in the second half.
As the game winded down, Crisp came through time and time again for the Huskies as he continued to come off of high ball screens and finish at the basket.
The inability to contain Crisp toward the end of the game proved to be the downfall for the Sun Devils.
“We couldn’t get any stops down the stretch,” ASU senior guard Shannon Evans II said. “We were getting killed in ball screens and Noah Dickerson kind of did what he wanted to do. We just have to fix that and we will be alright.”
Although the final five minutes of action unraveled for ASU, the majority of the second half was a well-constructed blueprint to try and steal a game on the road.
After shooting 1-10 from the three-point line in the first half against a stingy Washington zone defense, ASU went into the locker room and made some adjustments.
Coming out onto the floor in the second half, the Sun Devils cut into and eventually took the lead from Washington with about seven minutes left in the game.
ASU was 4-9 from beyond the arc in the second half, and the team was able to get into the teeth of the Husky zone, generating a variety of good looks.
As for the other end of the floor, ASU held Washington to 39 percent shooting from the field, and the defense was in prime form aside from the last five minutes of play.
“We allowed the high ball screen to be our undoing. We didn’t do a good job. [Crisp] turned the corner and went right down the lane. There was no resistance,” Hurley said. “I thought that defensively the first 15 minutes, we were pretty good in the second half, but it all fell apart late in the game.”
With a sixth loss in Pac-12 play, ASU has been on the wrong side of many close defeats thus far in conference play.
The unsettling trend has continued since the beginning of the conference slate in January. The team has sustained close losses against Arizona, Oregon, Utah and now Washington.
Out of ASU’s six losses, the Sun Devils have yet to lose by double digits and they have been highly competitive throughout the course of each game, regardless of how the team has played overall.
However, with all of the deflating defeats that the team has sustained, it begs the question on what ASU needs to do to get over the hump in Pac-12 play.
Whether it has been officiating, play calls, missed shots or defensive lapses, ASU is in dire need to find the answer as the rest of the Pac-12 schedule unwinds.
With a veteran senior group in the backcourt, the question still remains what needs to be done to get the job done. Nevertheless, the Sun Devils will look to get that response quickly as they will travel to Pullman for a Sunday matinee with the Washington State Cougars. Tipoff is set for Sunday, Feb. 4 at 2 p.m. MST.
“Looking in, you might think it’s over for us and things like that, but I know I have been an underdog my whole life. Kodi has been an underdog, Tra, Melo, the whole team, we have been underdogs,” Evans II said. “As far as confidence level and believing in my guys, I trust them and I know that they will be ready for it.”
Andrew Bell is one of Blaze Radio’s beat writers for ASU Men’s Basketball. You can reach out to him at email@example.com or follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewBell7 .