TEMPE – In their final home game of the season, Arizona State kept its slim hopes of an NCAA Tournament bid alive by defeating Utah, 67-59, on Senior Night behind a collection of clutch buckets down the stretch and a Warren Washington rejection.
Seven seniors were honored prior to tip-off and left Desert Financial Arena for the final time as winners, but there is more work ahead for the Sun Devils. They visit Arizona Saturday, then conclude the regular season at UCLA and USC.
The victory lifted ASU to a split against the mountain schools in its final homestand, setting up the three massive road matchups against the Pac-12’s top teams.
“It was a gutsy win,” Bobby Hurley said. “Very happy for the seniors. For the guys that just joined and DJ Horne the past two years, to see those guys performing the way they did and contributing in a hard fought game. Happy we got a win here at home, and hopefully we’ll use this momentum heading out on the road.”
In another tightly contested matchup for Arizona State, the Sun Devils were again plagued by a lack of offensive consistency. However, unlike Thursday night’s loss against Colorado, ASU was able to combat Utah’s zone defense by attacking the paint, outscoring the Utes by 10 in the restricted area.
“We struggled with the zone versus Colorado so you want to make sure and prove to yourself and have some confidence knowing that if the team shifts defenses, we can attack it appropriately,” Hurley said. “We had good cutting and movement off the basketball, hitting the high post and getting a few baskets doing that. I thought Desmond and DJ were able to get into the gaps of their zone and had some nice polish shots.”
The most promising aspect of the game for the Sun Devils as they head toward the Pac-12 Tournament might have been their ability to convert big shots in big moments.
Leading the pack was Desmond Cambridge Jr., whose multiple buckets in the final minutes gave Arizona State the lead for good. Following his brother’s lead, Devan Cambridge’s down-the-wire triple gave the Sun Devils the cushion they needed to secure the win and Washington, whose 18 points led ASU in scoring, erased a put-back attempt by Utah’s Branden Carlson with 21 seconds left that sealed it.
“As a Sun Devil, we have big coconuts,” said Devan Cambridge, who finished with 14 points and a team high six rebounds. “We emphasize that. Nobody is afraid to take those big shots, especially Desmond. He lives for that moment, and he’d been doing it his whole life. He trusts me to shoot that shot, too, and I know I’m going to take it.”
The Sun Devils are 13-0 when Devan Cambridge scores at least 10 points.
Hurley & Co. now have the week to prepare for the only matchup of the upcoming weekend, a trip to Tucson to take on No. 7 ranked Arizona. At 19-9 and sitting at 67th in the Kenpom rankings, ASU’s chance of receiving a bid for March is shrinking and took a significant hit from the home loss to Colorado in the first game of the two-game homestand.
Nevertheless, the end of the script hasn’t been written yet.
With matchups against the Wildcats, No.4 UCLA and USC ahead, the Sun Devils are in a position to write their own destiny.
“It’s a perfect opportunity,” Washington said. “As far as what we’ve done on the road, I feel like it’s a good boost of confidence because we’re road warriors and can take care of business on the road. These three games are definitely going to be a roller coaster.”