On Wednesday, Sun Devil head coach Herb Sendek told his players that there’s nothing wrong with “winning ugly.”
That would be the perfect way to describe their conference opener against the Utah Utes on Wednesday night: ugly.
Both teams shot less than 40-percent for the game, but the Sun Devils managed to pull out a 55-54 overtime victory over the Utes, thanks to point guard Jahii Carson’s driving layup with four seconds left in extra time.
Carson ended up with 15 points on 5-of-18 shooting, including 1-of-6 from three-point range.
Forward Carrick Felix led the team with 17 points and 13 rebounds.
“Welcome to conference basketball, I guess,” Sendek said. “I thought it was just a hard fought basketball game.”
Hard fought and fairly well played, despite the shooting woes both teams displayed. There were just 18 turnovers in the game, with Utah having 10 to Arizona State’s eight.
“Your heart goes out to whomever was gonna lose this game, because when young men on both sides play with that much heart, there really are no losers,” Sendek said.
Both teams would take turns having six point leads in the first half, but they would get no more separation than that, as Arizona State took a slim 25-24 lead into the intermission.
Utah’s bench contributed nicely in the first half, as they kicked in seven of the team’s 24 points. However, they wouldn’t score a single point in the second half.
The Sun Devil bench only had four points for the game – all by center Ruslan Pateev.
Utah and Arizona State would continue to struggle with their shooting in the second half. The Sun Devils’ shooting was actually worse, as they only hit 9-of-28 shots.
Center Jordan Bachynski was a bright spot for Arizona State, especially in the second half. Bachynski scored the team’s first eight points of the period, on his way to a 14-point, eight-rebound night.
The inability of either team to pull away from the other eventually led them down the overtime path, and the Utes cold shooting continued in the extra five minutes. They were 2-of-8 in the period. The Sun Devils were 3-of-6.
With the win, Arizona State improves to 12-2, 1-0 in the Pac-12. The Sun Devils have already exceeded their entire win total from last season, despite the tough victory on Wednesday.
“I’m really proud of the way our guys fought and battled on a night, offensively, we obviously struggled,” Sendek said.
The Sun Devils have a few days to get prepared for their second conference game at Wells Fargo Arena. This time, the Colorado Buffaloes will come calling. Tipoff is at 6 p.m on Sunday.