It was an ugly game all around in Salt Lake City and the Sun Devils earned the loss with offensive ineptitude, terrible interior defense and a stunning inability to make free throws. After going 8-16 from the line against Stanford, they did themselves even worse with a 40% effort in the 62-55 loss against the Utes. Carrick Felix posted 14 points and 11 rebounds while Jahii Carson and Chris Colvin combined for 22 points but Jordan Bachynski was beaten down on both ends by Utah's Jason Washburn while Evan Gordon and Jon Gilling were both non-factors as well.
In the first meeting between these two, Colorado jumped out to what looked to be an insurmountable 13-point lead early in the first half but ASU stormed back behind Carrick Felix's 20 points and Bachynski's nine blocks to take down the Buffs 65-56 in Tempe. Spencer Dinwiddie scored 19 to lead CU but the Buffaloes were just 2-19 from long distance.
The non-conference schedule meant that ASU had to surprise everyone and win as many Pac-12 games as possible to position themselves for a realistic chance to make the NCAA Tournament. Losing to Stanford at home and Utah anywhere makes things a lot tougher. Enter a hot Colorado team that is 42-5 at home in the last three seasons and you see why reaching for the panic button isn't that crazy. The good news for ASU is that they know they can beat this team and Jahii Carson only scored five points in the first meeting.
Tad Boyle: 3rd season at CU – 65-32; 121-98 career
Herb Sendek: 7th season at ASU – 112-99; 366-267 career
G – Askia Booker (13.5 PPG, 2.3 APG) vs. Jahii Carson (17.6 PPG, 5.0 APG)
G – Spencer Dinwiddie (15.0 PPG, 39% 3PT) vs. Evan Gordon (11.1 PPG, 35% 3PT)
F – Xavier Johnson (8.1 PPG, 4.2 RPG) vs. Carrick Felix (14.4 PPG, 8.1 RPG)
F – Andre Roberson (10.4 PPG, 11.7 RPG) vs. Jon Gilling (9.7 PPG, 6.8 RPG)
F – Josh Scott (11.8 PPG, 5.2 RPG) vs. Jordan Bachynski (9.4 PPG, 3.8 BPG)
Why Colorado Can Win:
In Tad Boyle's first 47 home games at Coors Events Center, the Buffaloes have won 42 times. Protecting your home court is essential and very few in the country do it better than Colorado. Aside from home dominance, CU also has two very good post players that love to get physical and ASU has struggled to answer such matchups lately. This game is a tale of two teams going in different directions and Colorado is very good at holding serve. Should be interesting to see where Carrick Felix matches up as Spencer Dinwiddie and Xavier Johnson are coming off big games and will force the Sun Devils defense to pay close attention.
Why ASU Can Win:
It is hard to have a ton of confidence in this squad right now but with Jahii Carson running the show, you know there is always a chance for something great to happen. Carrick Felix has put together a special season and Carson has been simply incredible in his first season in Tempe but the Sun Devils will need to put together a more balanced attack to help the two stars and get back to their winning ways. For all intents and purposes, ASU runs out four guards and one big man as Gilling and Felix spend more time on the perimeter than in the paint so that leaves Jordan Bachynski alone in the paint. With that in mind, Bachynski has been so ineffective in the last three contests that he is averaging just over 15 minutes per game and only scored 10 points total over the stretch. This team is only truly dangerous if it is clicking on all cylinders and ASU simply is not doing that right now. In his first game against CU, the Canadian Giant had 16 points to go along with nine blocks and seven rebounds. The nine blocks in a conference game were the most by a Sun Devil in 35 years. ASU wins if Bachynski puts together a similar performance.
Key Stat: Courtesy of ASU's SID department, the Sun Devils are one of six teams to have used the same starting lineup in every game this season. Others are SMU, Detroit, Creighton, Murray State and Stephen F. Austin. Not bad for a team that rolled out 23 different lineups in the previous two seasons combined.
X-Factor: After scoring in double digits in six out of his last seven games, Evan Gordon has gone cold – just 15 points combined in his last two contests and is shooting just 26% from the field. Furthermore, Gordon has been extraordinarily timid having gotten to the free throw line in just one of the last six games. This offense is sputtering and settles for long jumpers far too often – Gordon needs to attack the basket and allow his game to expand for ASU to get out of this rut.
Final Score: Colorado 76 ASU 70