This is how it was supposed to happen. A dominating performance by the No. 8 team in the country is exactly how everyone predicted this game to play out. That knowledge, however, doesn't make the loss any easier for Arizona State 8-9 (0-4).
The Sun Devils dropped to 0-4 in conference and below .500 after a 76-59 loss to the Utah 14-2 (4-0) Thursday night.
ASU held on in the early going, and were down just 13-10 with just over 10 minutes to play in the period. Eric Jacobsen then picked up his second foul which forced him to the bench. As the Utes continued to knock down shots, the maroon and gold went scoreless for almost five minutes in the first half, allowing the Utes to go on a 22-11 run into the half to put the game out of reach.
"We had too many unnecessary fouls," Sendek said. "We're not going to be in the position we want when Eric, Jon and Savon are in the kind of foul trouble that they were in but that's on us and we have to play without fouling."
Foul trouble continued to plague the Sun Devils in the second half. Jon Gilling quickly picked up his third and fourth fouls while Goodman picked up his third as well. The Dane and former UNLV Rebel eventually fouled out and finished with just three and nine points respectively. It forced Sendek to play younger and more inexperienced group including Kodi Justice, Willie Atwood and Roosevelt Scott for a majority of the second frame.
Sendek cited three instances where he believed ASU needed to be more disciplined in their defense.
"I can assure you that few things are emphasized more in our program than that," he said. "That's something that is really important to us and we didn't execute that."
In desperation mode down 20 with just over 12 minutes remaining, ASU engaged in a series of full court presses and half court traps to no avail. The Utes went on a 10-2 run to further stretch their lead.
"There are a lot of reasons why to some degree it worked late in the game but at the end of the day we have to be a better, more consistent half court defensive team," Sendek said. "When you're playing a team like Utah, you don't have a lot of room for error obviously and especially as efficient as they are on the offensive end. "
Foul issues persisted throughout the game, but the ghosts of turnovers and poor three point shooting past also came to visit. The Sun Devils finished just 22 of 56 from the field and shot 37.5 percent from beyond. Utah conversely made 22 of its 41 shots and made 9 of 17 from deep.
"I thought they were more physical tonight," Sendek said. "Once we started cold it really bothered us and effected us in our play especially early. I thought our guys really tried to do what we asked them to do and we did not convert. "
The Sun Devils are still in search of both their first conference and road win this season. While ASU faces the tough task of making 2014 a respectable year, the locker room is still trying to keep the correct mindset. The Sun Devils are trying to trust the process and aren't attempting to defend or excuse their losses.
"I mean who doesn't want to win? I think everybody in our locker room wants to win," sophomore forward Savon Goodman said. "It's just us, we got to key in a little bit more. When we think we're putting in a good effort and great preparation for the game, we've got to take it to another level and put in a little bit more. That's all it is and just actually executing what we prep for in the game."
Goodman was one of the few bright spots for the Sun Devils. He finished with 10 rebounds and nine points, an effort to be proud of as a 6-foot-6 forward against a team with two 7-footers. Gerry Blakes led the team in scoring with 10 points.
Utah senior guard Delon Wright finished with 21 points and six assists and junior forward Jordan Loveridge added 14 points and eight boards.
"I don't think their size or anything mattered. I just think it was more of us not playing as a collective group and together and hard," Goodman said.
ASU continues its home stand Saturday against Colorado on Saturday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. MT on Pac-12 Networks.
"Our mindset in our locker room is believe," Goodman said. "We got to look forward to the next game, Colorado on Saturday and try and bounce back. "