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Utah Men’s Basketball Dominates Arizona State to Advance in Pac-12 Tournament

The Utes shot an astounding 59.3% from the field compared to just 31.4% for the Sun Devils, subsequently leading to the lopsided victory.
Mary Allen
Utah guard Gabe Madsen (55) during the game vs. Arizona State at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV on Wednesday March 13, 2024. (Photo by Mary Allen | The Daily Utah Chronicle)


The Utah men’s basketball team headed into the first round of the Pac-12 tournament looking for revenge against an Arizona State Sun Devil team that had knocked them off twice already this season. Beating a team three times in one season is not an easy task, and Utah proved that to be true as they led from start to finish, coming away with a 90-57 victory. The Utes shot an astounding 59.3% from the field compared to just 31.4% for the Sun Devils, subsequently leading to the lopsided victory. With the win, Utah will take on Colorado on Thursday evening, with a trip to the Pac-12 tournament semifinals on the line.

First Half

Utah came out in the first half intending to set the tone physically early, and they did just that. The help defense on the Arizona State front court by Cole Bajema, Deivon Smith and the rest of the Utes backcourt was infectious, leading to fast break opportunities that Utah was able to capitalize on. On the offensive end, the ball movement by the Utes had the Sun Devils scrambling defensively, eventually leading to seven first-half three-pointers, four of which came from senior guard Cole Bajema.

Gabe Madsen was the catalyst for the hot Utah start, as he scored eight quick points to give the Utes a 14-6 lead just under six minutes into the contest. Hunter Erickson came off the bench early and provided an offensive spark, knocking down his first two shot attempts, both from three-point range, to give Utah a 24-12 advantage with 10:21 remaining in the half. The Utes were not satisfied with a 12-point lead, however, as they continued to apply defensive pressure, forcing the Sun Devils to take tough contested shots for the remainder of the half.

The ball movement by Utah was exceptional, as the unselfish play style of the Utah guards was on full display. With 4:50 remaining, Madsen found Bajema in the corner for his second three of the night, but Bajema didn’t stop there. The next two offensive possessions down the floor produced the same result, as Bajema was able to knock down two more three-pointers, extending the Utah lead to 40-18 with just 3:37 left in the half. The 9-0 scoring run from Bajema gave Utah their largest lead of the night and was able to electrify the Utah faithful that made the trip down to Las Vegas. The final three minutes were much of the same for Utah, as they continued to extend their lead by utilizing active hands-on defense to force Arizona State turnovers, which led to open looks in transition.

As the first half came to a close, Utah took a commanding 47-22 lead into the locker room with a lot to be happy with for head coach Craig Smith and his staff. Arizona State has shown this year that they are a team capable of making a run, and Utah wasn’t able to let off the gas just yet.

The man of the hour was Bajema, as he led all scorers at halftime with 14 points on 5-7 shooting from the field. Smith continued to dominate in every aspect of the game, scoring seven points, dishing out five assists and grabbing seven rebounds to put him on triple-double watch once again. Madsen dropped eight early first-half points and dished out four assists as the Sun Devil double teams allowed him to showcase his playmaking skills. Six points by Erickson off the bench rounded out the majority of the first-half scoring as the Utes looked to secure the win in the final 20 minutes of action.

Second Half

Both teams came out of halftime relatively flat, subsequently slowing down the pace of the game, which favored Utah and their comfortable lead. With 13:28 left in the half, a defensive stop led to a layup by Madsen, extending the Utah lead to 28. With a commanding lead and just under 14 minutes remaining, Utah was able to take their time on offense and drain some of the remaining clock.

Arizona State plays a high-paced, high-energy offense, but Utah’s ability to take possessions deep into the shot clock and seek out the best possible shot limited the open court opportunities for the Sun Devils.

At the 8:32 mark of the second half, another three-pointer from Erickson gave Utah a 72-40 lead with little to no time for the Sun Devils to make a comeback. As Utah continued to play calm and composed offensive basketball, the comeback effort from Arizona State became more and more unlikely until both teams were able to go to their benches for the final minutes of this contest.

The recipe for Utah’s success in the second half came at the defensive end, as they never allowed Arizona State to get comfortable in their offensive sets. The Sun Devils attempted desperately to make a run and cut into the Utah lead, but the interior length of Branden Carlson, Lawson Lovering and Keba Keita caused too much havoc defensively.

The offensive game plan for the second half was a carbon copy of the first half as Utah continued their unselfish play, finding open shooters and dumping down to their bigs when the defense face guarded off ball. The aggressive playstyle from Utah led to a dominating performance from start to finish, seeing the Utes eventually come away with the dominant win, 90-57.

Utes Stuffing the Stat Sheet

The hot hand tonight came from Bajema, as he knocked down seven of his 11 shots for a game-high 22 points. Smith dominated the box score once again as he scored 15 points, grabbed 10 hard-fought rebounds and dished out nine assists. Madsen started the game off on fire, ending with 10 points on the night, while Erickson came off the bench and delivered when it mattered, putting up 11 points of his own. Ben Carlson played well in his minutes off the bench, as he poured in eight points, including an emphatic two-handed dunk towards the end of the game. The rest of the scoring came primarily from Carlson, Keba Keita and Jaden Teat, as they each scored seven.

What’s next for the Utes?

Utah will take on the Colorado Buffaloes on Thursday, March 14, at 9:30 p.m. MDT in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 tournament. The Utes will look to avenge their Feb. 24 loss against the Buffaloes with a trip to the semifinals on the line. Coverage will be provided by Fox Sports 1.


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About the Contributors
Kyle Garrison
Kyle Garrison, Assistant Sports Editor
Kyle garrison grew up in Spring Lake, Michigan. He moved to Salt Lake City to pursue a degree in communications with an emphasis in journalism. Kyle plans on pursuing broadcast journalism as a career once graduating from the University of Utah. Kyle started with the Chronicle this fall and has loved every minute of working with the team.
Mary Allen
Mary Allen, Design Director
(she/her) Born and raised in Salt Lake City, Mary is thrilled to be here at the University of Utah studying graphic design. She feels very lucky to get to rub shoulders with the talented people that make up the team here at the Chronicle and is learning a lot from them every day. Other than making things look cute, Mary’s passions include music, pickleball, Diet Coke, wildlife protection, and the Boston Red Sox.

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