ASU's final home game of the season ended on a sad note as the Devils fell to the Washington Huskies on Senior Night, 68-59. With a loss to the Washington Huskies, the Arizona State Sun Devils find themselves in a very difficult position if they want to make the NCAA Tournament this season. Coach Herb Sendek noted that his team was not lacking effort in their defeat, but that the size and athleticism of Washington was just too much for ASU to handle.
"The overall length and size of their team; those guys are physical and it's what they're good at," Coach Herb Sendek said following the loss. "It wasn't a good match for us."
Ruslan Pateev, Jahii Carson and Evan Gordon led the Sun Devils in scoring with 10 a piece, while Carrick Felix had 8 points and 6 rebounds in his final game at home as a member of the Sun Devils. On the other side, UW senior Scott Suggs must have figured Senior Night was for him after scoring 16 points and going 4-6 from behind the arc.
In honor of Senior Night and the last game the Sun Devils seniors would play at home, Ruslan Pateev was given the starting center spot over Jordan Bachynski. He made the most of it, dunking two balls for four points and grabbing two boards in his first four minutes of action. But after that, ASU found themselves in a conundrum trying to deal with Washington's size, including Aziz N'Diaye and Shawn Kemp, Jr., while also keeping their perimeter shooting at bay.
Sendek tried a combination of Bachynski and Pateev on the floor at the same time to stop the bleeding, but that made their defense too slow, especially along the perimeter. It wasn't until freshman Eric Jacobsen was forced into the game at the center position that the tides turned.
At the 9:54 mark in the second half, Eric Jacobsen entered the game and sparked a complete ASU overhaul. He was slotted at the center position, tasked with guarding 7-0 center Aziz N'Diaye, and he managed to hold his own. In that time, ASU came back from a 12-point deficit to make it a 57-56 game in favor of the Huskies with 3:49 to go.
"On both ends of the floor, he gives us a physical presence," Sendek said of Jacobsen. "He's strong, he's sturdy. You had to love the way he was even posting up; he was low, he was wide, he was demanding the ball. He did a good job on the defensive end as well."
Missed free throws, an Achilles heel for the Devils all season long, along with ASU's inability to keep the Huskies off of the offensive boards ended up burying the Sun Devils once and for all. They made just 8-15 from the charity stripe, while allowing Washington to snag 14 offensive rebounds on 28 missed shots and score 14 2nd chance points. In their two games combined, ASU was outrebounded 71-42 by UW.
After the game, Felix was seen on the court discussing the game with Sun Devils all-time scoring leader, Eddie House. Felix noted that House told him that ASU needs to "turn it up on defense" if they want to win games at the end of the day.
"It's something that we're going to reflect on on Monday," Felix said. "We have two away games next week in LA and that's the thing about this, thank God we have another game next week. We just have to go and prepare for that."
With this loss, ASU not only falls to 9-6 in Pac-12 play, but they have also decreased their chances of making the NCAA Tournament in March. They will now likely need to win against both USC and UCLA and possibly even U of A on their upcoming road trip in order to make the big dance. When asked about the team's chances of getting an invite, Carrick Felix seemed optimistic.
"I think we'll be okay," Felix said. "We just need to get back to the drawing board and get back to doing the little things. I think we definitely would have solidified it with this win, but now we've got a bigger test. We've got three away games, all games on the road versus the better Pac-12 teams. We've just got to make sure we care of business or our NCAA hopes are gone."
"I've maintained all along that I don't know," Sendek said of his team's chances. "I don't handicap it, study it; obviously anytime you lose, it hurts your chances. Anytime you win, you might incrementally help your chances. Tonight obviously didn't help, I know that much."
ASU's next game comes against UCLA in Los Angeles on Wednesday night at 8:30 PT.