December 22nd was less than two weeks ago.
The night ASU took down #1 Kansas at a packed Wells Fargo Arena and made a loud statement to the college basketball world might as well be two months ago. Since then, they’ve had two games and haven’t made much more than a whisper.
The Sun Devils lost to Princeton on Saturday and had a quiet second half to Utah, opening conference play with a 96-86 loss on Thursday night.
“It was frustrating because it was a game we had control of,” ASU basketball coach Bobby Hurley said. “We allowed them to cut the lead to four at the half, and then it kind of snowballed from there.”
With 9:40 left in the first half, ASU seemed to be coasting to a conference opening win, leading 28-11. The Princeton loss may have been a blip on the radar, but the Sun Devils turned the page to conferece play and 2019. Utah then outscored the Sun Devils 85-58 for the remaining 30 minutes, shooting 10/16 from 3-point range in the second half.
“It was like two different teams,” Hurley said of the Sun Devils’ Jekyll-Hyde performance on Thursday. “It was a tale of two different parts of a half: special ball movement, shot-making, energy on defense, getting stops and it all went away really fast.”
ASU made 14 separate trips to the free throw line. They hit both free throws just three times (Luguentz Dort did convert on an and-one opportunity), totalling 15/25 on the night.
Cheatham, who played just days after his brother was shot and killed, said this is beyond a wakeup call, and the Sun Devils have had multiple games, including against top-10 Nevada, where they have let leads slip away.
“Some of these games where we’ve built these big leads, we just can’t put our foot on their necks,” Cheatham said. “We kind of put the foot off the gas or something like that. It’s costing us. It’s costing us games we shouldn’t lose…We have no room to sulk and get in our own heads.”
The Sun Devils take on Colorado on Saturday at 4 p.m. at Wells Fargo Arena.