ASU Basketball: Sun Devils open Pac-12 play with an overtime victory over the Utah Utes, 55-54

Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

The Sun Devils, behind the leadership and fantastic play of senior forward Carrick Felix, defeated the Utah Utes 55-54 on Wednesday night.

From the beginning of the game, it seemed that the Arizona State Sun Devils and the Utah Utes were intent on matching one another's pace. The first half started a bit slowly, with only 15 total points being scored in the first nine minutes. Then, in the latter portion of the first half and into the second period, the pace was very much like a seesaw, going back and forth between each possession. No matter how the game was going, no team could seem to find separation from the other.

The Sun Devils started out really slow in the first ten minutes of the game, going 0-7 and letting the Utah Utes go on a 9-0 run at one point. A couple of threes from senior forward Carrick Felix and stellar dribble penetration by Jahii Carson as he dished it out to his teammates quickly saw the Devils back in the game and back in the lead by the time the half expired.

The 'Bachynski Brother Battle' was nothing that special, as Dallin Bachynski of the Utes got into foul trouble early and Jordan Bachynski was quick to start, but struggled for the remainder of the first half. He began the game with two quick back-to-back buckets, giving ASU a 4-0 lead, but did not score for the rest of the half. Then, in the second half, he scored the first two Sun Devils buckets again and began to start feeling it. Jordan Bachynski finished the game 14 points and 8 rebounds before leaving in the final minute of overtime with some cramping issues.

The Devils took the lead in the first half and did not relinquish it until 5:45 to go in the game. It was the post presence of Utes center Jason Washburn that puzzled the Devils throughout the night. He collected an astounding 18 rebounds, including 18 total points.

"I thought (Jason) Washburn was tremendous going down the stretch. That's what you try to do on the road; you put yourself in a position to win," Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak said.

The Utes had the lead entering the final minute of the game, beating the Devils 49-46, but point guard Jahii Carson stepped to the plate and delivered a big three to tie the game. Prior to that made shot, he was shooting a porous 3-14 from the field.

"Down in the clutch, I feel confident," Carson said. "I took my time and tried to knock it down the best I could."

"He just has a great capacity, as do most great players, of staying in the present," head coach Herb Sendek said of Carson. "He believes in himself and I think he knows we believe in him. He just has a great capacity to let whatever just happened go and make the next play, which is a real gift."

An odd sequence of events by the Sun Devils' offense kept the game tied at 49, forcing an overtime period. It marked the first overtime game for the Sun Devils since January 29th, 2011 where the Devils lost to UCLA.

Of all people, it was Ruslan Pateev may have had the biggest impact for the Devils in OT. He only scored two points in that time, but his hustle and shot blocking prowess after Bachynski's exit kept ASU afloat. Carson hit another clutch shot via a floater in the lane to give ASU a 55-54 lead with about 30 seconds remaining. Another timely block from Pateev all but sealed the game for the Devils, as a couple of forced shots by the Utes failed to go in.

"We don't win the game without Ruslan's performance," Sendek said of his senior big man. "I don't know if I have ever been as proud of a player as I am of him because he's all in no matter what. He's the consummate teammate and it's not easy to not play and then be put in those kinds of situations and play well."

"If somebody's hurt, somebody's got to step up and play," Pateev said. "I feel like this game in particular, I had to step it up even better because it was a close game. You've just got to step up and play."

The Sun Devils are now 12-2 on the year, including 1-0 in the Pac-12. Their next game comes against the Colorado Buffaloes. Hopefully for the Sun Devils' sake, that game will not be as nail biting as their one against the Utes was.

As Coach Sendek said, "I don't think we did a whole lot offensively that's going to make our postseason highlight film tonight."

Apparently, it was still enough for a big Sun Devils victory.

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