BY JEFF DONLEY, SUN DEVIL COMMUNICATIONS INTERN
Lengthy scoring droughts in the first half proved to be too much to overcome for the Arizona State men’s basketball team as the Sun Devils fell to Washington, 76-65, in the Pac-12 opener Thursday at Wells Fargo Arena.
ASU made seven of its first nine shots, but then made just 2-of-22 to close the half.
Following the game, ASU Head Coach Herb Sendek said, “Poor shot selection was a significant part of the story here this evening. And quite frankly, we just had a difficult time defending Washington. Off the dribble stands out, transition stands out, and C.J. Wilcox makes you pay each time you make a mistake.”
With the loss, Arizona State falls to 11-3 on the season and 0-1 in Pac-12 play. Washington improves to 9-5, 1-0 in conference, and defeated the Sun Devils for the eighth consecutive time.
Jahii Carson scored 15 points to lead the Sun Devils offensively. Other than Carson, most of the remaining offense came from the likes of Jordan Bachynski, who added 13 points and had a team-high five boards, and Shaquielle McKissic, who also tallied 13 points.
Rebounding was an issue for the third consecutive game, as Washington held the advantage on the glass, 40-34. Washington also held a 42-34 advantage in points in the paint.
“For the first time this year, the three wasn’t falling for us. We were only 2-for-14 from three and we didn’t find another way to win, to compete,” Sendek said.
Arizona State finished the game shooting 39-percent from the floor, which was bolstered by a 50-percent clip in the second half, but just 14-percent from the perimeter. Washington finished the game shooting a 47-percent clip from the field and 38-percent from three-point range.
The Sun Devils had a six-point lead, its largest of the half, with 15:54 on the clock before momentum shifted in Washington’s favor. The Huskies quickly put together a 20-4 scoring run, lasting 8:11 into the under-eight official timeout, and had a 30-20 lead over Arizona State with 6:46 remaining in the half. Despite its hot shooting to start the game, ASU quickly cooled off, making just two of 14 shots during Washington’s run. The Sun Devils started the game shooting 64-percent from the floor at the first official timeout.
Washington continued to dominate the game into halftime, leading the Sun Devils, 40-23. Although Carson led all scorers at the break with 10 points, ASU struggled mightily on both ends of the court, shooting just 29-percent from the floor and allowing the Huskies to shoot 52-percent in the half. The Sun Devils had multiple scoring droughts in the first half, including finishing the last 4:10 of the half without a point.
“In the first half, I thought our inability to convert some of the good shots that we had, coupled with the fact that I thought we exercised our poorest shot selection of the year, really made it difficult for us to score. On the other end, the poor shots resulted in us being on our heels with our transition defense, and in other cases we were just burned in transition,” said Sendek.
The Sun Devils came out to play in the second half, going on an 11-4 scoring run to cut the lead to 10 points, 44-34, but that would be the closest that ASU would get. Washington quickly turned things around following the timeout, putting together an 8-0 run of its own, stretching the lead back to 18-points, 52-34, and ASU called a timeout at 14:41.
Five Huskies scored in double figures, and Wilcox led the offensive charge with 17 points. Other top performers included Andrew Andrews, who had 14 points, Nigel Williams-Goss, who had 12 points, and 10 points each from Perris Blackwell and Darin Johnson. Blackwell and Willams-Goss both had seven rebounds, which tied for a game-high.
Arizona State will look for its first conference win and close out the home stand this weekend, facing Washington State on Sunday at 4 p.m. MT on ESPNU.