After an emotionally exhausting victory over Arizona on Valentine's Day, the Devils fell flat in Boulder falling to Colorado 61-52 in a game that never seemed as close as the score indicated. Shooting just 31% from the field and getting outrebounded by 21 were the two biggest catalysts in the loss. Jahii Carson scored 18 points but turned the ball over five times and finished with just a single assist – no other starters scored in double digits.
In their first meeting, ASU overcame a halftime deficit to pull out a 79-75 win at home. Carson put up 23 points while Jordan Bachynski had a double-double with 11 and 11. The Devils shot 53% from the field and got to the free throw line 31 times. More of that needs to happen if they want to complete the season sweep. Jordan Loveridge led Utah with 22 points as Wright also had 21 in the close loss.
Every single publication that puts out a Bubble Watch commends ASU for the job they've done so far but stresses that more work needs to be done. Beating Arizona is lovely but following that up with two straight losses against teams they've already beaten isn't ideal. Splitting this weekend is vital for a solid push forward in Tournament discussions and starting to generate more buzz around campus.
Larry Krystkowiak: 3rd season at Utah – 38-52; 80-72 career
Herb Sendek: 8th season at ASU – 138-114; 392-272 career
G – Brandon Taylor (10.8 PPG, 3.7 APG) vs. Jahii Carson (18.8 PPG, 4.6 APG)
G – Delon Wright (16.0 PPG, 25% 3PT) vs. Jermaine Marshall (15.8 PPG, 43% 3PT)
F – Dakarai Tucker (7.7 PPG, 40& 3PT) vs. Shaq McKissic (8.5 PPG, 5.3 RPG)
F – Jordan Loveridge (15.2 PPG, 7.5 RPG) vs. Eric Jacobsen (2.6 PPG, 2.1 RPG)
C – Dallin Bachysnki (6.8 PPG, 4.9 RPG) vs. Jordan Bachynski (11.9 PPG, 4.5 BPG)
Why Utah Can Win:
A lot of teams play well at home only to struggle on the road and Utah leads that movement more than anyone else in the country. With just one road win in eight games, the Utes are 16-2 at home with both losses coming to top-10 teams at the time of the game. Having that kind of success will give a team confidence that they can beat anyone in their house and that makes a difference in college basketball. Jordan Loveridge had his way in the first meeting against the smaller ASU lineup and the Utes will likely rely on the Wright/Loveridge combo again.
Why ASU Can Win:
The offense is sputtering and the bench play has been inconsistent but the Devils have three players capable of taking over a game and these guys have been successful away from home in hostile environments so there is reason to believe they can come home from the long weekend with a split. Jahii Carson hasn't been himself but he always seems to will himself to the basket late in the game and his matchup with Delon Wright and Brandon Taylor is the one to watch. Jermaine Marshall and Shaq McKissic will need to pop from deep and keep the lane open for Carson and Bachynski. If ASU can repeat their shooting success from the first meeting and contain Loveridge with Jacobsen, the Devils should pull away with the win.
Key Stat: With just five blocks, Jordan Bachynski will break his own Pac-12 record for blocks in a single season of 120. Currently at 116, Jordan will likely need to reject brother Dallin's attempts in order to secure the record on Sunday.
X-Factor: February swoons; in the two previous seasons, ASU has gone 5-12 in February including a season-killing four game losing skid to cap off the regular season schedule. With a deflating loss to Colorado still on the mind, another flop against Utah will have the Sun Devil faithful expecting the worst yet again. A win in Salt Lake for ASU would be a strong signal that these aren't the same old Devils.
Final Score: ASU 67 Utah 66