Winning on the road has never been easy for Tad Boyle's Buffaloes, and this year's team proved just that after picking up their second straight road loss to Arizona State in an ugly fashion, 72-51.
"We let our frustrations get the better of us tonight, and we talked about it after the Arizona game, there were some things to build on," Boyle said. "Tonight was one of those nights that there's not much to build on. We got to get back to square one and get better."
With this loss, the Buffs sit at .500 in Pac-12 play (4-4) and set their overall record at 15-6. Three of those losses occurred during away games after the team lost star guard Spencer Dinwiddie to a torn ACL.
Although the Buffs got manhandled by the Sun Devils, they did have one bright spot of the game to boast about. Junior guard Askia Booker, who scored 10 points on the night, passed the 1000-point mile marker of his college career (1004).
For the night, the Buffs shot poorly from everywhere on the field. They made 20 of 47 shots from the field (42.6%), 2 of 11 from the three (18.2%), and made 9 of 24 free throws (37.5%). In games like this, the Buffs can normally count on their good free throw shooting to boost them on offense, but the shots weren't falling on Saturday night.
"We weren't ourselves at the free throw line," Boyle said. "We weren't ourselves rebounding the ball, we got out-rebounded. We didn't defend. And I told our team we got to figure out a way, and we got to be mentally tough enough, to try to win this game 51-50. Right now we're not there."
Booker attributed Saturday night's performance to their level of energy.
"The energy just wasn't there," Booker said. "When you have a lack of energy on the road, it's rough to win."
The Sun Devils shot well from everywhere on the court. They hit 23-47 from the field (48.9%), 9-19 from the three (47.4%), and made 17 of their 21 free throws (81.0%).
The Sun Devils outperformed the Buffs in nearly every aspect of the game with the exception of fast break points. By the end of the night, the Buffs utilized their fast breaks to score 10 points whereas ASU did not score any.
The Buffs got the lead early in the first half off of a free throw from Scott, but the Sun Devils quickly responded to gain their first lead. They held that lead until 14:38, when a three-point play from Booker gave the Buffs their second lead of the game, 8-7.
After that, the Sun Devils took over. They immediately scored eight unanswered points to go up by seven, and the Buffs could not recover for the remainder of the half. By the time the buzzer sounded, the Buffs went down by as much as 11 points three separate times.
At the break, the Sun Devils lead the Buffs 34-23.
In the first, the Buffs shot decently. They went 8-19 from the field (42.1%), 1-4 from the three-point range (25.0%), and struggled at the charity stripe after only sinking half of their 12 free throws.
The Sun Devils, however, were a little more efficient on offense. They shot 12-23 from the field (52.2%), 3-9 from beyond the arc (33.3%), and made seven of their nine free throws (77.8%).
The first half was ridden with turnovers. By the time the buzzer sounded, the Buffs had committed 12 turnovers and the Sun Devils were responsible for 11.
In the second half, the Buffaloes' luck went from bad to worse. During the first eight minutes, the Sun Devils outscored them 21-6 to gain a 23-point lead, 54-31. But their biggest deficit of the half--and the season, for that matter--came with 4:42 left on the clock when Arizona State led by 25 points, 64-39.
By the end of the game, the Buffs fell 72-51 for their second straight loss this road trip.
"We're just not competing," Booker said. "I didn't come ready to play, Jaron didn't come ready to play, and the guards were not as good as I think they are. We're just not performing right now, and I think it's a mental lapse. We have to come out and be confident."
"The road isn't going to get any easier," Boyle said. "Now, we do have three straight home games, we do have a week of practice to get better, and we need that. We need to get better this week and we need to turn this ship around."