ASU was able to keep the game close in the first half, but turning the ball over 18 times while shooting 35 percent generally won't keep a team in the game for long, and a three by Nate Tomlinson just under four minutes into the second half put the Buffs up eight, and they never looked back.
"Tonight is a microcosm of our season," coach Herb Sendek said." We turned the ball over too much and we have not found a way to consistently get that number to a more manageable size and that being said it doesn't give us any wiggle room in any area you're going to talk about. I thought our guys competed on defense and they tried, but it seemed like we just didn't give ourselves a chance with the turnovers."
It sounds the same after every loss like this one, but ASU has not found a way to consistently stop itself from turning it over to the other team. Maybe they need Jahii Carson, maybe Trent Lockett needs to be healthy, or maybe they just need James Harden and Derek Glasser to put back on the maroon and gold and get this program back on track.
Whatever needs to happen, it needs to happen soon.
"We've got to play better," Lockett said after the game. "We shot 35 percent from the floor, combined with our turnovers and that puts a lot of pressure on our defense."
Any semblance of "better" would work for the Sun Devils, the problem is that every loss has the same issues as the last, and none of those issues seem to be getting fixed.
With Lockett's explosiveness not there, it makes it difficult for him to get guys open from the point guard spot when he can't penetrate to do so. When Colvin runs the point the offense just looks rushed and while guys tend to get more open shots, the same can be said for the opponent who usually gets four or five extra possessions when Colvin is on the floor.
"You can look at the turnovers and today they came in a variety of ways," Sendek said of the offensive struggles. "It all comes down to the fundamentals…sometimes the best play is the one you don't make. We emphasize all the time just making the simple, easy play, and I thought there were three of four of those plays that are prominent in my mind. We had one illegal screen, I'll take that one.
"We're not going to play with no turnovers because we're not going to walk on egg shells either, but for our team right now I'd like it to be 12 or less."
One positive for the Sun Devils lately has been the play of Jordan Bachynski. Bachynski started the game off great, grabbing three boards, taking a charge, and blocking a shot before picking up an early second foul and going to the bench just five minutes into the game. He wouldn't return until the second half, but it only took 90 seconds for him to pick up two more and go back to the bench once again, finishing the game with only 14 minutes on the floor.
Everything seemed to flow better while he was in the game, the only problem was he couldn't get out of his own way, and when he finally did return his aggressiveness seemed lost.
"He's been playing well," Lockett said of Bachynski. "He's really helped our team lately, so I think not having him in there hurt us a little bit. He's got to play smarter and he knows that, he'll be fine next game."
Now it's not impossible to win when a team shoots poorly and doesn't take care of the ball, but the only way to combat those things is to attack and get to the line, which the Sun Devils only managed to do eight times, making only four.
"Whether it was ball movement, or you want to talk about an attack mentality, we only took eight free throws in the game, and I'd like to see us get to the line more than basically for eight free throws," Sendek said of his team's approach. "So we don't get to the free-throw line, we have high turnovers and we shoot a low field goal percentage, and the defensive field goal percentage you see is really an illusion to some degree because it's not against our defense, it's against our offense in so many situations."
Offense, defense, shooting; nothing seems to be going right for ASU lately, but with Sendek signing his extension and no coaching "turnover" in sight, all the Sun Devils can hope for is that Carson is the real deal next year…or James Harden will come back.