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ASU Basketball: Sun Devils overcome foul trouble to sneak past Utah, 80-77

ASU had a record-breaking night, but in the way it would’ve hoped

NCAA Basketball: Arizona State at Utah Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona State Sun Devils (13-2, 1-2 Pac-12) outlasted the Utah Utes (10-5, 2-1) by a final score of 80-77 in an epic back and forth battle in Salt Lake City Sunday night.

Senior guards Kodi Justice and Shannon Evans II lead ASU with 20 and 22 points respectively as the Sun Devils overcame 31 personal fouls to manage their first Pac-12 victory of the season.

The Devils dominated the first segment of the game, creating terrific offensive opportunities and suffocating the Utes on the other end of the floor to take a 19-11 lead around the ten minute mark of the first half.

Justice made the biggest impact early on for the Sun Devils, converting three of his first four shot attempts. Four of his first six points came off of a sequence in which he stole the ball on consecutive possessions and finished on the other end.

He limped off the court and headed to the locker room midway through the first half but returned to the court just a few minutes later.

A couple big threes from Utah and key misses from the Sun Devils helped Utah open up a 16-4 run that gave the Utes their first lead just under the five minute mark.

Justice and Evans II made a couple shots from extremely deep range to help the Devils gain back the lead, but foul trouble cost them down the stretch.

As the first half wound to a close, Arizona State had registered 14 personal fouls across seven players, including three on junior big man DeQuon Lake. The fouls allowed Utah to convert 10 attempts at the free throw line and execute a 6-0 run during the final minute of the first half, taking a 36-35 lead.

Senior guard Tra Holder scored six quick points after the break after scoring just two in the first half. He helped ASU regain a six point lead but once again foul trouble came back to hurt ASU.

Vitaliy Shibel, Romello White and DeQuon Lake each had four fouls with just five minutes gone after the break. Five other Sun Devils had two fouls.

The two teams traded blows for the next twenty minutes, with Evans II leading the way for ASU and Sedrick Barefield carrying the Utes.

The final two minutes of the game encapsulated just how close the entire contest had been.

Evans II drew a foul call and converted his free throws at the 1:47 mark, then David Collette answered with a quick layup and one. Mickey Mitchell then found space underneath and Collette answered again for Utah.

Then with just 21 seconds to go on the most important possession of the night, Mitchell drove down the lane, drew contact and connected on both opportunities from the charity stripe to give ASU a 79-77 lead.

Though they countered every advance the Sun Devils had managed all game long, the Utes’ final punch fell inches short. Utah’s Justin Bibbins fired a go-ahead three with three seconds to go that rattled in and out of the rim to finally bring the game to an end.

Evans was fouled on the ensuing inbound and put the game away with a free throw and a miss that forced a desperate Utah heave from full court that landed way wide and well short.