The Sun Devils managed to hang around much longer than most expected but ultimately missed too many late free throws to keep up with the hot-shooting freshman Tony Wroten and his Huskies, falling 60-54 Thursday night in Tempe. Wroten lead all scorers with 22 points (9 of 12 shooting) but Jonathan Gilling (20 points) and Jordan Bachynski (13 rebounds) both set new career-highs in different categories.
"I thought we had a number of opportunities to make plays that would have allowed us to be in better position to win this basketball game," head coach Herb Sendek said. "It's the plays that were capable of making that we didn't that stand out to me right now."
Still, despite being extremely undersized compared to the visiting squad, the Sun Devils showed true grit around the rim, nearly matching Washington in the battle of the glass (35 to 34). But baskets were hard to come by early with both teams sitting at seven points over eight minutes into the contest. Surprisingly though, even with the Devils still turning over the ball at their usual immense rate, Washington wasn't able to capitalize in the first half.
Instead, despite attempting no free throws in the first 20 minutes, Arizona State went to the locker room with a two-point lead thanks to a Chris Colvin buzzer-beating layup. The defense though, was the real story of the first half, with the Devils holding the Huskies, who score 78 PPG (second best in Pac-12), to a mere 22 points.
"Tonight I feel like we had a lot of guys step up," Bachynski said.
But alas, the wheels came off to begin the second half as the Huskies went on a 17-3 run as the Devils couldn't buy a shot or a board.
"We need to focus on what we've been focusing on all week...defense and gang-rebounding," Bachynski said. "During that spurt when they went up, we didn't gang rebound."
Nevertheless, the Huskies still couldn't put the Devils away and Arizona State continue to slowly climb back around thanks to some poor free throw shooting by the visitors.
Then, with 1:39 left to play, Gilling hit his biggest shot of the night; a three that put ASU down by only four. But the dagger would only a few second later on the other end of the court, as multiple Devils juggled a rebound that was finally scooped up by Wroten, who flushed it in for an "and one." Arizona State would go on to miss a handful of important free throws which never allowed them to narrow the gap to one possession, leaving the team with that all-too-familiar sinking feeling in their guts.
"I'm just disappointed with the loss," Gilling said. "I really thought we could have beat these guys. I don't think they're any better than us."
The Devils get back to practice Friday before Washington State heads into town Saturday (tip-off scheduled for 3:00 pm).
Other Game Notes:
- Sendek still doesn't sound too optimistic about Trent Lockett's return for Saturday against WSU stating "we have to be prepared to play without him."
- Chanse Creekmur failed to log a point (0 of 4 shooting) despite playing 33 minutes. This marks his third straight scoreless game (all in Lockett's absence).
- Colvin didn't look sharp tonight with seven assists to six turnovers but fatigue may have been a factor with Sendek playing him 39 minutes due to lack of depth.
- Gilling didn't have his best shooting night despite the new career-high (6 of 16) but showed great confidence on both ends of the court, playing all but one minute of the game as well. Sendek on his lack of rest - "that's a pretty telling sign for a freshman."
- Sendek used "the twin towers" (Ruslan Pateev next to Bachynski) in this game for one of the few times this season and it returned mixed results. Bachynski believes "it creates a mismatch for either one of us." But at this juncture, Sendek is most proud of Bachynski's play after he has put together his two best games of the season back-to-back. Sendek on Bachynski - "I think going back to last week before the Utah game he decided he's going to be more of an animal."