TEMPE, Ariz. — The Arizona State Sun Devils opened conference play with three straight road games — and three straight losses.
Hopes were high that the Devils would turn things around in their home arena, where they had lost just twice dating back to the 2012-13 season.
But against the No. 8 Utah Utes, it proved to be more of the same — even in front of a packed, noisy “942 Crew” student section that set a single-game ASU student attendance record.
Led by 21 points and six assists from guard Delon Wright and 14 points and eight rebounds from forward Jordan Loveridge, Utah never trailed and led by as many as 28 points in a 76-59 win Thursday at Wells Fargo Arena.
“When you’re playing against a team like Utah, you don’t have a lot of room for error, obviously, especially as efficient as they are on the offensive end,” said ASU coach Herb Sendek, whose team shot just 34.6 percent from the field in the first half to allow Utah to build a double-digit advantage on 54.5 percent first-half shooting.
The loss was just the third for ASU (8-9, 0-4 Pac-12) in its last 27 home games, and the Devils dropped to 2-4 against top-10 teams at home under Sendek.
ASU sophomore forward Savon Goodman came just short of a double-double, scoring nine points on 4-of-6 shooting and gaining a game-high 10 rebounds before fouling out with less than three minutes to play.
But most of Goodman’s teammates struggled to hit open shots early, both from 3-point range and in the paint.
“A couple guys missed a couple perimeter shots and a couple easy tip-ins around the rim that we usually make every day in practice and our other games,” Goodman said. “But, you know, every game isn’t going to be perfect, so we’ve just got to put that behind us and move on to the next game.”
ASU kept it close for the first 10 minutes, trailing just 13-12 midway through the first half. But the Utes (14-2, 4-0) closed the half on a 27-11 run to take a 40-23 advantage into the locker room.
Utah went 4-of-6 from 3-point range and 12-of-12 from the free-throw line in the first half, and ASU missed each of its first eight attempts from beyond the arc.
“I thought once we started cold, it really bothered us and affected us in our play,” Sendek said. “Especially early, I thought our guys really tried to do what we asked them to do. We did not convert.”
Sendek tried shaking things up before both halves. He replaced junior guard Roosevelt Scott with freshman guard Tra Holder in the starting lineup, and he went small to start the second half.
ASU opened the second half with a 3-pointer by senior forward Jonathan Gilling to trim the lead to 14 points. But the Utes proceeded to rattle off seven straight points, capped by a jumper by guard Brandon Taylor, to expand their lead to 21. ASU didn’t get closer than 17 the rest of the game.
It’s hard to imagine that a one-handed alley-oop dunk by Goodman from freshman guard Kodi Justice late in the first half won’t make the SportsCenter Top 10. The play brought the crowd to its feet in a game that was already slipping away from the Sun Devils.
It was much too little, too late, but ASU was a lot better from 3-point range as the game progressed, converting on nine of its last 16 attempts from distance. The Devils were 9-of-24 from beyond the arc for the game, and eight different ASU players hit a trey.
The 942 Crew’s “Curtain of Distraction” did its part. After making all 12 of their free-throw attempts in the first half, the Utes struggled in the second half when they switched sides and had to shoot in front of the student section. Utah went just 11-of-18 from the line in the second half when the Crew offered such distractions as a fan in a skin-tight cow costume and an overweight gentleman doing lunges in a tank top and short shorts.
Foul trouble plagued the Sun Devils for the entire evening. Along with Goodman’s disqualification, starting center Eric Jacobsen had three fouls at halftime and forward Jonathan Gilling fouled out with just under 12 minutes to play.
Gilling was a non-factor for the Devils: three points (1-of-3 from the field), one rebound and no assists in 16 minutes off the bench. The senior came in averaging 7.5 points per game this season, but has averaged just 3.3 points in his last six games.
Utah controlled the boards all night, out-rebounding ASU 18-10 in the first half and 32-28 for the game.
STAT OF THE GAME
Sign of the night: “You made 3s better than Andy Phillips” – a reference to Utah’s kicker who missed a pair of overtime field goals in a 19-16 loss to ASU in Tempe last November
Unfortunately for the Devils, that sign proved to be prophetic, as the Utes were 9-of-17 from 3-point range Thursday, improving upon their season percentage of 39.7, the second-best mark in the conference.
HE SAID IT
“I think they’re pretty big on the glass. They’re well-coached. They’re a good team, despite us missing a couple open shots and being kicked in the mouth and not kicking them back.” – Goodman on the Utes
– Former ASU center Jordan Bachynski was on hand Thursday to watch ASU and catch his brother, Utah center Dallin Bachynski, in action. The 942 Crew chanted “Jordan’s better” at Dallin after he checked in about five minutes into the game. Dallin had four points and five rebounds in nine minutes off the bench.
Jordan Bachynski, sporting the custom lid. pic.twitter.com/D4uJ17hJAl
— Jeff (BPredict) (@BPredict) January 16, 2015
– Many 942 Crew members sported T-shirts honoring the school’s original name and mascot.
Not a student but want to win a throwback shirt? Tweet a pic & your seat info at the game for the chance to win! pic.twitter.com/P3HNlN63QJ
— Sun Devil Athletics (@TheSunDevils) January 15, 2015
The Sun Devils will continue to look for their first conference victory when they host the Colorado Buffaloes (9-7, 2-2) Saturday. The Buffs are coming off a 68-54 loss Thursday night at No. 10 Arizona. The game begins at 2:30 p.m. and can be heard on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.