This article was contributed by Jesse Borek
To say that the Sun Devils put forth their most miserable performance of the season late on Sunday night would be an understatement.
In part deux of the Battle of the Bachynskis, younger brother Dallin’s Utah Utes (18-9, 7-8) came out on top over Jordan’s Sun Devils (19-8, 8-6) with a convincing 86-63 rout.
Do not be fooled by the fact that just because the Bachynski brothers squared off in Salt Lake City tonight that the game was about the siblings from north of the border. In fact, each man had very little to do with the outcome of what was a lambasting of the Sun Devils.
After Arizona State scored the game’s first basket, the Utes promptly answered by going on a feverish 18-4 run that if was not cut into soon, looked as if it could snowball to epic proportions.
Absolutely nothing went right on both ends of the floor for ASU; usually a sour combination when trying to win a conference game on the road.
At halftime, ASU was shooting a miserable 27% from the field, which spiked to just above 30% at the conclusion of their drubbing at the hands of the Utes.
Unlike the mantra of games gone by, it was not as if the Sun Devils had difficulty getting into their offensive sets, or finding open looks, as both of those hurdles were cleared quite easily. Where the trouble set in was once the ball was set to be released.
Shooting a dreadful 6-for-27 (22%) from three-point range, the Sun Devils literally shot themselves right out of the game. Outside of the marksmanship of Egor Koulechov, who buried all three of his long-range attempts, the shooting was abysmal. Jermaine Marshall went 1-for-7, Jahii Carson 0-for-4 and even Bo Barnes went 1-for 4.
To blame this embarrassing loss strictly on shooting would be unfair. The defense was also lacking.
Two early fouls assessed ASU center Jordan Bachynski certainly did not help the interior defense, but Utah was made to look like they were a team with a deep tournament run in their legs, when in actuality, they will need a Cinderella-like run to even think about buying glass slippers to the dance.
In defense of what was one of the more shocking defeats in the program’s recent memory, it was not as if the Sun Devils wilted up and died. Hustle plays and defensive intensity stayed at peak level throughout, with Bo Barnes, Eric Jacobsen and Jordan Bachynski standing out in particular to pace the high-energy effort.
If nothing else comes out of this drubbing in Utah, coach Herb Sendek may have at least found himself another option off the bench as freshman Egor Koulechov went for 11 points and eight rebounds in 20 minutes off the bench. Whether it was the adulation over his home nation being crowned kings of the 2014 Winter Games or not, it has become obvious that the sharp-shooting prowess of the young Koulechov will prove vital to stretching out defenses as the season carries on.
Life in the PAC-12 continues to prove that it is indeed a roller coaster ride. Last Friday, it was the Sun Devils beating the #2 Arizona Wildcats. This past week, those very same Wildcats swept a road trip to both Utah and Colorado, while the Sun Devils fell flat on their face, losing to both.
Does a blowout loss like this deal a significant blow to Arizona State’s NCAA Tournament hopes? More than likely not. Where it does come into play, is the PAC-12 Tournament. Each team in the top-4 ranked spots of the conference get a bye, which would be beneficial to a squad like the Sun Devils who would rather leave nothing to chance and just find their way to the dance with an automatic qualifier berth from winning the tournament in Vegas.
Before the enticing Vegas strip can light up their eyes, they have a vital two-game home stand to take care of this upcoming week.
On Wednesday night, they welcome in the Stanford Cardinal (18-8, 9-5) of Palo Alto, California to Wells Fargo Arena at 9 PM for what should be a collision of two teams destined for the big dance. The two met on the first of this month of February with the Cardinal coming out on top by a score of 76-70, but by no means dominating the game.
For this upcoming home series, ASU will desperately be looking to build some momentum heading into March and avoid their first three-game losing streak of the season.