The campus of the University of Washington in Seattle is home to some of the most picturesque settings in all of Division I college sports. Chief among them is Lake Washington, which borders the football stadium.
Less than a mile from that lake, Arizona State men’s basketball was boat raced by the host Washington Huskies from the opening tip until the final buzzer in a deflating 87-64 loss on Thursday night.
Any doubt in this contest was erased by a dominant 10 minutes to start the second half by the Huskies (13-9, 8-4 Pac-12). In that stretch, the all white-and-purple-clad home team made a ridiculous 10 of 15 shots from the floor, including 4 of 5 from 3-point range, to leave the Sun Devils (7-15, 3-9) in their wake. With seven minutes remaining, the Huskies had accumulated a 27-point advantage.
Heading into the contest, the first for Arizona State against an unranked team since Jan. 22, the Sun Devils had appeared to turn over a new leaf. For the better parts of five straight games against ranked teams, the Sun Devils banked on energetic defense and timely offense to compete consistently against the cream of the conference. The stretch was highlighted by the season’s zenith; a triple-overtime thriller and victory over then-No. 3 UCLA.
But the idea that Bobby Hurley’s team had hit its stride and was primed for a triumphant home stretch was proven specious within the first minutes against Washington.
The Sun Devils began a meager 3 for 18 from the field, allowing their opponents to build a commanding 23-11 lead. By the 10-minute mark of the first half, the highest individual scoring total belonged to forward Kimani Lawrence with three points.
Still, the Sun Devils battled to make it a game as the first half drew toward a close. As the Huskies switched to a zone, the Sun Devils showed good poise with their passing decisions to free up the offense and cut the deficit as low as eight.
Against the same opponent where he put on a big man exhibition in Tempe last season with 21 points and 20 rebounds, Lawrence put 15 points on the board Thursday night. He also came through with three blocks and six rebounds, though his production was somewhat mitigated by his three turnovers. In total, the Sun Devils turned the ball over 14 times.
Three nights after allowing six different Arizona Wildcats to score in double figures, the Sun Devils allowed four Washington Huskies to do the same. Washington guard Terrell Brown Jr. led the way for all scorers with 19 points, and added eight assists to supplement a game-high usage rate of 28 percent.
What really sunk the Sun Devils hopes in Seattle was not another night of sub-40 percent from the field and sub-30 percent from three, but rather the third leg of their dark triad: fouls.
The Huskies were gifted 29 free-throws, of which they made 20. It was the fifth-straight game the Sun Devils have surrendered at least 20 attempts from the line to their opponent, and the seventh time this season an opponent has had 25 or more attempts.
All told, it was yet another night where the Sun Devils surrendered around 25 percent of their opponent’s points on shots that were totally uncontested.
As guard DJ Horne has gone this season, so have the Sun Devils, and with seven points on 2 for 7 from the field, the team sunk with their leading scorer.
On a 44 degree night in Seattle, a cold reality hit Arizona State. This game did little for the team but serve as a reminder that this iteration of Hurley’s Sun Devils are oftentimes just mismatching parts added into a sum greater than their opponents only on the most remarkable of occasions. Thursday night’s loss also guaranteed a losing season for the team.
In the fringes, there were bright spots. Forward Jalen Graham again scored in double figures for the seventh time in his last nine games with 14 points. Likely to return for his senior season, Graham could find himself as the offensive focal point next winter.
Still, the outlook for this team remains grim. Yet another 20+ point loss to a conference opponent only served to reinforce that.
The Sun Devils will have another crack at a Pacific northwest opponent when they take on Washington State on Saturday night. That game will tip at 8 p.m. Saturday night.