A prime letdown spot was indeed last Saturday as
Arizona State fell to visiting Princeton and out of the national rankings. A
clean slate, though, awaits the Sun Devils as they tip off Pac-12 play Thursday
night by hosting Utah.
Arizona State had knocked off top-ranked Kansas a
week prior to getting edged by the Tigers. The Sun Devils’ subsequent
fall from No. 17 to outside the national rankings means the struggling Pac-12
enters the New Year without a ranked team. “It definitely hurts,” Arizona State
senior forward Zylan Cheatham told reporters after the Sun Devils shot a season-worst
32.3 percent in the 67-66 loss to Princeton. “Basketball humbles you real quick.” Utah also
is coming off a defeat - an 86-71 home loss to No. 5 Nevada on Saturday - and California (5-7) was the only other Pac-12 team to fail to post a winning
TV: 8 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network
ABOUT UTAH (6-6): Since opening
December with a 69-64 win over Tulsa, the Runnin’ Utes have dropped three of
their last five, but the last two losses have come against top-14-ranked foes
in Kentucky (88-61) and Nevada. Senior guard Sedrick Barefield leads the team
in scoring with 15 points per game and has averaged 21.3 - including a
season-high 33 versus Nevada - while coming off the bench the last three
games in coach Larry Krystkowiak’s reconfigured rotation. Forward Donnie
Tillman is the only other Utah player averaging double digits (10.0),
and the 6-7 forward also averages a team-best 6.4 rebounds.
ABOUT ARIZONA STATE (9-3): The Sun Devils
feature one of the nation’s top freshmen and the Pac-12’s third-leading scorer
in guard Luguentz Dort (18.1 points), but he has averaged only 10.3 points over
his last four outings, including a season-low six on 1-of-8 shooting against Princeton. Backcourt mate Remy Martin (12.2) along with forward Kimani Lawrence (11.9) and
Cheatham (11.3) also are averaging double figures while the latter also paces
the team with 10.1 rebounds per outing. The Sun Devils are averaging a
Pac-12-best 44 rebounds per game - a figure which also is tied for fifth
nationally - but they also are shooting a conference-worst 43.2 percent from
the field despite ranking tied for second with 79.7 points per outing.
1. Utah owns an 8-4 series edge since joining the
Pac-12 in 2011, and the two teams split a season ago with each winning on the
2. Arizona State is opening Pac-12 play at home
for only the fourth time in the last 11 seasons, and will have four of its
first six conference contests in Tempe.
3. Utah went 1-5 in road/neutral games during
non-conference play while averaging 66.7 points and 14.3 turnovers.