GAME NOTES: The Arizona State Sun Devils will try to break back into the win column on Thursday night, as they host the Utah Utes in a Pac-12 Conference duel at Wells Fargo Arena.
Utah has won each of its last two bouts to improve to 3-3 in conference action and 14-4 overall. The Utes' most recent triumph was a 74-69 victory over then 25th-ranked UCLA last Thursday. They will have a quicker turnaround after this bout, visiting top-ranked Arizona on Saturday.
Arizona State has been idle since its own test against the Wildcats, which ended in a 91-68 setback for the Sun Devils. The loss was the second straight for them and dropped the team to 13-5 overall and 2-3 against the rest of the conference. They are 9-1 on their home floor, where they face Colorado on Saturday.
These teams split the season series a year ago, with the home team coming out on top each time. Utah leads the all-time series by a count of 27-19.
Utah kept the normally potent Bruins in check to claim the upset victory last Thursday. The Utes limited UCLA to 42.9 percent shooting, while converting 47.2 percent of their own field goal attempts. Jordan Loveridge tallied 17 points and came up a rebound shy of a double-double in the victory.
The Utes have made a habit of slowing teams down with their defensive pressure. They are allowing only 61.1 ppg on 39.3 percent shooting this season, with each of those marks ranking in the top-35 in the country. They also score 81 ppg and rank third nationally in field goal percentage (.510). Loveridge (16.4 ppg, 8.3 rpg) is the leading scorer on the roster, but Delon Wright (15.7 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 5.2 apg, 2.7 spg) is the more versatile performer, leading the conference in field goal percentage (635), while ranking in the top five in assists and steals. Additionally, Brandon Taylor (10.6 ppg) provides scoring depth.
The Sun Devils managed to knock down only 34 percent of their shots from the floor, while being outscored 38-18 in the paint by Arizona. They also committed 18 turnovers, while assisting on only seven field goals. Jahii Carson totaled 20 points, but needed 19 shots in order to do so.
Although they did not look it against Arizona, the Sun Devils are a solid defensive squad. They are holding teams to 66.2 ppg and 40 percent shooting. However, Arizona State is putting forth more pedestrian numbers on offense (76.7 ppg, .465 FG percentage) compared to the rest of the Pac-12. Carson (!8.2 ppg, 4.7 apg) makes the team tick, leading the way in scoring and assists. Jermaine Marshall (15.6 ppg) is another potent scorer, teaming with Carson in the ASU backcourt. Up front, Jordan Bachynski (12.1 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 4.5 bpg) is one of the most formidable centers around, as he leads the nation in blocks.
Getting back home where they are 9-1 this season, should help the Sun Devils bounce back, especially if they can limit Loveridge and Wright.
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