Men’s Basketball: Utah Falls to No. 4 ASU in Tight Game, 80-77


University of Utah senior guard Justin Bibbins (1) takes a free throw shot during an NCAA Basketball game vs. Arizona State University Sun Devils at the Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, Utah on Sunday, Jan. 7, 2018. (Photo by Kiffer Creveling | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Brittni Meservy

Runnin’ Ute Justin Bibbins had been working on this type of shot before the University of Utah men’s basketball team (10-5 overall, 2-2 Pac-12) hosted No. 4 Arizona State (13-2 overall, 1-2 Pac-12) on Sunday night in the Huntsman Center — a 3-pointer from the right arc. But with six seconds to play and down two points, Bibbins watched his go-ahead attempt fall in the hoop and swirl out as Utah wound up falling to the Sun Devils, 80-77.

“I don’t know how that shot came out,” Bibbins said. “I just couldn’t believe it came out.”

Two weeks into Pac-12 play, head coach Larry Krystkowiak describes conference action as being a “topsy-turvy deal.” While he is proud of his team for sweeping the Oregon schools on the road, he is disappointed that it fell to both Arizona schools this past week.

“It’s a lot of fun to have a 3-pointer like that and the importance of it. There’s no feeling in the world like when it goes in and there’s no feeling in the world when it bounces out,” Krystkowiak said. “In regards to that shot, that same analogy takes place with wins and losses. There’s nothing like pulling off a big win and there’s really not a lower low.”

Utah and Arizona State played a close game with the biggest lead of the night coming in the first half when the Sun Devils took an 11-point edge that they held for 24 seconds. Utah didn’t start either half off on the right foot as Arizona State opened the game on a 10-2 run and came out of halftime on an 8-0 run. Bibbins said the first four minutes of games are important and that the team needs to work on coming out stronger in the beginning.

Despite the rocky start to the second half that featured Utah turnovers, fouls and missed shots, Utah tied the game at 55-55 with 9:57 to play. But even when Utah tied the game or pulled ahead, Arizona State was quick to answer back. The contest was tied for the 11th time at 77 a piece with 43 seconds remaining. A pair of free throws from the Sun Devils pushed them ahead before Bibbins’s shot from behind the arc rimmed out. Tyler Rawson went on to commit a foul that sent a Sun Devil to the line where one final shot was made to close out the scoring.

Fouls played a major role in the game. Between the two teams, 50 fouls were called. Bibbins led the team in free throws and points after going 12-of-13 at the stripe, 4-of-12 from the field and 2-of-8 from deep for 22 points. Collette was the only Ute to foul out of the game, while Arizona State had three players foul out.

“There was a lot of contact I thought throughout the game,” Krystkowiak said. “And we got a fair number of those calls and got to the line.”

After his team’s winning road trip in Oregon, Krystkowiak used an analogy about a marathon to put things into perspective. He said every game is about a mile and a half in a marathon, and he brought up that same analogy after Sunday night’s loss.

“I don’t think too many successful people that are finishing with a good time ever get too excited after the first three miles,” Krystkowiak said. “And having said that, we’re six miles in. It’s not time to bonk and not finish the race.”

Next up for the Utes is a road trip to California for a pair of games against UCLA and USC.

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