It’s hard to think positively after two consecutive blow-out losses, but there is one thing for which the Arizona State men’s basketball team can be thankful.
Both games were on the road.
And that’s important, since the fans have continued to show up at Wells Fargo Arena to support their Sun Devils as they struggle through the Pac-12 schedule. But the embarrassment of the last two set-backs, a 38-point disaster at rival Arizona followed by a 35-point loss to Utah, might have begun to cool that enthusiasm, had they happened on their home court.
Friday’s 81-46 loss at Utah wasn’t just disappointing, it was downright ugly.
By the time the first half hit the halfway mark, the Utes were sitting on a 30-2 lead that blew up to a 45-point advantage midway through the second half. ASU didn’t score its first basket until Obinna Oleka hit a jumper almost five minutes into the game.
The junior forward scored the first six points of the game and finished with nine points. Gerry Blakes was the only Devil in double figures, with 10.
The Sun Devils (14-14, 4-11) managed to hit just four buckets in the half as Utah took a 44-10 lead into intermission. But the game was over long before halftime arrived, as the Devils put up little fight after falling into a deep hole early. They missed all nine of their three-point attempts in the first half as the Utah defense held them to 14.3 percent shooting over the first 20 minutes, and 25 percent for the game.
So far, Sun Devil Nation has been very supportive of its high-energy first-year coach, Bobby Hurly. After beginning the season 10-3, the Devils have won just four of their 15 conference games – but attendance at home games has actually been increasing.
The Devils drew 5,275 for their season opener against Sacramento State and, if you remove the rivalry game with Arizona which drew a season-high 8,044 fans, were drawing an average of just over 5,000 through mid-January.
But the last four home games they have been averaging 6,829, including 7,772 for the USC game, which was the highest attendance for the season behind the first encounter with Arizona at the start of January, which was played in Tempe.
OK, the Wildcats fill twice that many seats in Tucson, but they’ve been a nationally-ranked team for years now, while ASU has been mired in mediocrity.
It remains to be seen, however, whether the ASU fan enthusiasm will hold for the remaining two home games.
ASU plays Colorado this afternoon for its final road game and then returns home for the final two regular-season games against Stanford and California.
Colorado is going to pose a problem for the Sun Devils, who have had just one day to mentally recover from their beating Friday night – and the melt-down the week before against their hated in-state rival. The Buffaloes have already won 20 games and are in fifth place in the Pac-12.
ASU hasn’t played Colorado this season, so there’s no recent history to help forecast today’s outcome. But the Buffs are coming off a game against a common opponent, a huge upset win over No. 9 Arizona – the team that just laid a 99-61 thrashing on the Devils.
That’s a scary thought if you’re an ASU fan. Today’s contest could make it three lopsided losses in a row against a team trying to deal with a fragile sense of self-worth right now.
If that does happen, it will be interesting to see if the faithful back home in Tempe are still keeping a light in the window for their return…and will be there to support them through the final two games of what has turned into a very disappointing season.
(Photo: ASU Athletics)