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ASU Basketball: Free throw woes cost Sun Devils in 89-85 loss to Washington

Washington survived big foul trouble on Saturday night and escaped Tempe with a four point victory.

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona State Sun Devils finished Saturday's game against the Washington Huskies with six players having scored in double figures.

ASU was plus-17 in points off turnovers and plus-11 in bench scoring, while also managing to hold four Huskies under their season averages.

It was another game where the Sun Devils did many things right, but let one of their Achilles heels spell their doom.

Arizona State entered Saturday's game ranked second in the Pac-12 in free throw percentage, but by the time the night was over they had 13 misses from the charity stripe in a four-point defeat.

"The biggest problem was our free throw shooting," said head coach Bobby Hurley. "It goes back to being consistent in each game. In a game where your margin of error isn't great, you cannot shoot that number (16-for-29) from the foul line."

Small forward Savon Goodman missed four free throws but still scored 10 points, which was the junior's best performance since the December 5 win against Texas A&M. Kodi Justice led the maroon and gold with 17 points off the bench but did not get to the line.

The night got off to an inauspicious start when Washington jumped out to a 9-0 lead. Arizona State slowly worked itself back into the game but still found itself down by double digits twice throughout the first half - first at 31-21 and then at 44-34 after star guard Andrew Andrews buried a three to beat the halftime buzzer.

"We did not start the way we needed to," Hurley said. "We dug a hole for ourselves and couldn't execute."

But just as they have done so many times this season, some well-placed halftime adjustments paved the way for a second-half comeback.

A 9-2 run — with six consecutive points scored by Goodman — pulled the Sun Devils to within 64-62 with nine minutes remaining, and another mini spurt after falling behind by seven cut the deficit to 69-67 five minutes later.

Every time they pulled close, however, the Huskies were able to come up with a big shot.

First it was Dominic Green, burying a three to make the score 72-67 just before the shot clock expired. Then came what looked like the dagger from big man Matisse Thybulle with just two minutes to play, knocking down a triple to push the Washington lead to nine at 79-70.

"It is hard to beat a good team like that," Justice said after the game. "Every time we were within two or three points, they would turn around and hit a big three. We just couldn't get that next stop to get over the hump."

Still, Arizona State wouldn't go down without a fight. In perhaps his best two minutes throughout his short tenure in Tempe, Hurley utilized his stockpile of timeouts masterfully.

The first-year coach of the Sun Devils called three timeouts in less than a minute, all after made baskets to set up his trap defense. Twice did the Huskies turn the ball over after those timeouts, and it looked as if ASU was going to get the ball back down three with yet another turnover until Willie Atwood was whistled for a late foul call.

That call resulted in two makes at the other end for Andrews, who would go on to make four more free throws in the final 20 seconds. Those put the win on ice for the visitors from Seattle, sealing the deal on an 89-85 win.

Andrews finished with 30 points and 12 assists, an outburst that Arizona State has not seen often from an individual opponent so far in the 2015-16 campaign.

"He is so dangerous because he knows how to use his body to get open even when defended well," Hurley said. "He's got a really good future ahead of him beyond this season."

Arizona State fell to 11-7 (1-4 Pac-12) with the loss, their second close defeat in seven days. Washington (12-15, 4-1 Pac-12), meanwhile, appears to have completely turned the corner after losses to Oakland and UC Santa Barbara last month.

Next up for the Sun Devils is a trip to Berkeley, where they will face California on Thursday night. Tipoff is set for 7:00 p.m. (MT) and the game will be televised by Fox Sports 1.