Arizona State (15-7, 6-5 Pac-12) went winless in Washington this weekend after falling to Washington State (10-13, 5-7) in deflating fashion Saturday night, 75-58. That’s four losses in a row for the Sun Devils.
Just two weeks ago we talked about how ASU was fighting for the top spot in the Pac-12 when UCLA came to Tempe. Now, ASU finds itself sitting behind five other teams, including Arizona, Oregon and Utah.
It’s difficult to say how much air Thursday’s loss at Washington took out of ASU’s balloon, but it sure looked like Wazzu controlled the energy and tempo from the opening tip. The theme of the night for the Cougars was shoot the three-ball better than ASU, and they did just that.
Washington State scored 56% of its points on threes, including eight made shots from deep in the first half, six of those coming from Andrej Jakimovski (22) and Justin Powell (20). ASU was doing a good job somehow staying in the game for the first 11 minutes, even leading at that point in the game. But, back-to-back-to-back triples by the aforementioned duo put the juice right back in the sauce of the Cougars.
The core for ASU of late has been Frankie Collins (16), Desmond Cambridge Jr. (15) and Warren (12), all of whom scored 12 or more points on Saturday night, but it was the role players who really struggled to find rhythm in Pullman. One reason for that may be that DJ Horne was not on the sidelines due to “conduct detrimental to the team,” ESPN’s Roxy Bernstein said on the broadcast.
After scoring just three points in his last two games combined and taking three tough losses consecutively, it’s extremely difficult to keep one’s head up high. However, adversity and losses could build character for teams like ASU.
It’s up to them to right the ship, because getting out-rebounded by 14, giving up second chance points and allowing teams to go on runs at the end of half, end of game scenarios are going to eventually kill any tournament aspirations this team has if they don’t correct course as soon as possible.
Meaningful minutes for Alonzo Gaffney, Jamiya Neal and the young Austin Nunez did not equate to proficient scoring, combining for five points in 65 minutes between the three of them, all of which were scored by Nunez.
Washington State refused to let ASU back in the game with what felt like a never-ending wave of three pointers, keeping the margin between 5-15 points the entirety of the second half. I’ve never personally seen a college duo shoot the ball from deep like Jakimovski and Powell did on Saturday. They combined for 11 made triples and over half the points for the Cougars overall.
It wasn’t a good weekend in Washington, and hasn’t been the ideal stretch fans, players and coaches had expected 14 days ago. Going into Saturday ASU was among the last four teams to get into the March Madness tournament. After the loss, the Sun Devils are projected as one of the teams right on the outside looking in. Next weeks games against Oregon State and Oregon will be key identifiers in revealing what is next for this ASU team, but the Pac-12 Tournament is still going to make or break it at this point.
ASU will be home against the Oregon schools, starting with Oregon State on Thursday night. The Sun Devils followed up four straight wins with four straight losses. Maybe the tide is about to turn again?
Who knows? It’s college basketball. Anything is possible at any given moment.