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Men's Hoops Tops Utah on Jalen Graham's Game Winner, 64-62

Jan 17, 2022

by Zackary Teats, McLendon Future Leader, Arizona State University

The Arizona State men's basketball team notched a close win Monday afternoon against the Utah Utes (8-10; 1-7) at Desert Financial Arena, 64-62

The Sun Devils found themselves in a battle with the Utes that saw 16 lead changes and eight ties. Both teams struggled to get the lid off of the basket early and it was a low-scoring affair for much of the first half. Despite an exciting 7-2 run that was capped off by a big three from Marreon Jackson in the final minutes of the first half, the Utes held a 28-26 lead at halftime thanks to a buzzer-beating three-pointer from Utah's David Jenkins Jr.


The second half produced another slow start for both teams but the Sun Devils were able to get their offense going by getting points in the paint and playing tough defense. After trading buckets slowly for the first seen minutes of the second half, the Sun Devils went on an 8-1 run that included two three-pointers from Jay Heath and DJ Horne, creating the largest lead of the day at 39-33. The scoring picked up for both teams after this point and the game began to go back and forth. 

SOLID IN CLOSE ONES: ASU's 64-62 win over Utah was its seventh Pac-12 win in past eight tries in a two-possession game. In the past three seasons, ASU is 15-6 in Pac-12 two-possession games.
ASU 64, Utah 62 (Jan. 17, 2022)
ASU 69, @Oregon 67 OT (Dec. 5, 2021)
ASU 64, Washington State 59 (Mar. 10, 2021 at Pac-12 Tournament)
ASU 77, Washington State 74 OT (Feb. 25, 20210
@UCLA 80, ASU 79 (Feb. 20, 2021)
ASU 75, Oregon State 73 (Feb. 14, 2021)
ASU 79, Stanford 75 (Jan. 30, 2021)
ASU 72, California 68 (Jan. 28, 2021)
Arizona 84, ASU 82 (Jan. 21, 2021)
@Oregon State 80, ASU 79 (Jan. 16, 2021)
UCLA 81, ASU 75 OT (Jan. 7, 2021)
ASU 74, Oregon State 73 (Feb. 22, 2020)
@UCLA 75, ASU 72 (Feb. 27, 2020)
ASU 77, #14 Oregon 72 (Feb. 20, 2020)
ASU 80, @California 75 (Feb. 16, 2020)
ASU 74, Stanford 69 (Feb. 13, 2020)
ASU 66, USC 64 (Feb. 8, 2020)
ASU 87, @Washington 83 (Feb. 1, 2020)
@Washington State 67, ASU 65 (Jan. 29, 2020)
ASU 66, #22 Arizona 65 (Jan. 25, 2020)
ASU 82, @Oregon State 76 (Jan. 9, 2020)

Utah was able to take a late lead and it appeared the Sun Devils were at risk of losing a fourth straight until another big three-pointer from Marreon Jackson tied the game at 60-60 with a minute and a half to play.

After a strong defensive possession, Jalen Graham put the Sun Devils in the lead with less than a minute to go after making his fourth basket of the game. The Utes answered with a mid-range jumper from David Jenkins Jr. late in the shot clock, tying the game at 62-62. 

Coach Bobby Hurley called a timeout at this point and drew up a play that put the ball in the hands of Jalen Graham. With less than 15 seconds left in the game, the Sun Devils were able to run the play to perfection, and Graham put in a floater to take the lead, 64-62.

The Utes quickly scrambled to put up a final desperation heave, but Jay Heath stripped the ball away, ending the game. 

The Sun Devils were able to dominate the paint during the game, scoring 36 points compared to Utah's 22. Their defensive intensity also proved to be a difference-maker, as they scored 21 points off of Utah's 14 turnovers.

Kimani Lawrence led all scorers with 18 points and five rebounds while three other Sun Devils chipped in with double-digit scoring efforts.

DJ Horne scored 13 including three three-pointers, while Jalen Graham and Marreon Jackson helped out with 12 and 10 points. 

"I thought we persevered well through the game, and I was very pleased with our offense in the second half. 17-for-32, (in the second half) it's such a good feeling to look at the stat sheet after the game and see that. We struggled to score and to see guys making plays, making shots, it was rewarding for these guys that work as hard as they do. Jalen Graham, I'm happy for him. He had COVID right before the season and had some stuff he's been going through, it's only his fourth day in the last twenty days of playing basketball. For him to deliver with some big plays on offense late, I thought he battled (with) their big guy under the basket. Marreon (Jackson), huge three, and he made a good pass to (Jalen Graham). Guys that we want to see start playing better, happy to see that. I thought we executed well late in the game." 

On how the last play of the game was drawn
"We saw that, in ball screens, they were really aggressively staying with the guard. Once we set it, I wanted to get a pocket pass to Jalen at the elbows, I maybe would've liked there to be a little less time on the clock as he made the shot. And we wanted DJ (Horne) in the right corner, just because I didn't think they would rotate off him, so it worked out well." 
On how Jalen Graham has been over the last two games
"You know, really, that kid means a lot to me, he and I have built a good relationship this year, we sat down and talked just about the whole season, and it hasn't been easy for him. We both came into this year with high hopes and we haven't lived up to what he had hoped for, so it was kind of more let's try and take advantage of every moment we have the rest of the way this year. I could tell in his body language and how he communicated leading into the Colorado game, I wasn't even sure if he was gonna still be able to play because he's been under the weather. We made that commitment to each other and he's more than honored it so far."

On how the last play of the game was drawn
"We saw that in ball screens they were really aggressively staying with the guard. Once we set it, I wanted to get a pocket pass to (Jalen Green) at the elbows, I maybe would've liked there would be a little less time on the clock as he made the shot. And we wanted DJ (Horne) in the right corner, just because I didn't think they would rotate off him, so it worked out well."
On the shot selection
"I thought, I touched on the threes in the first half we were 4-for-17, but I do remember that guys were pretty open, I thought they were some good attempts that just didn't go in the basket. But there was more of an emphasis on scoring inside and getting the ball to Kimani Lawrence inside, and Kimani had some really good work on the offensive glass too. Just getting more high percentage shots on the paint overall, and I think we did that."

The communication between him (JG) and Kimani on the court. Especially defensively, do you feel the communication improved defensively this game?
"I thought that, you know, their big guys got good size. He's (Kimani) pretty physical and I thought he battled well ya know, I thought all of the frontcourt really did. We took care of business when we needed to. Other than the banked 3, when that happened it was like oh man like this is probably just like our year has gone so far but yeah I thought our guys were really physical, really up for the challenge around the basket." 

The three that Marreon hit in the first half, could a shot like that for a guy whos been struggling lead to the big three in the second half? 
"He just had a different way about him today. He was very determined and he was way more decisive, I don't think he was, ya know he got in the lane he had a couple of nice finishes. He didn't play perfect but you could see signs that this is the guy that we had watched a lot through the summer and the fall. It was good to see him get a positive result and that certainly could've led to him having more confidence to make that one later." 

You guys defended really well on the last 2 possessions even the basket they made the defense was great. What do you have to say about just clamping down there? 
"Yeah, I mean the kid, Jenkins, made a tough mid-range shot it was kind of late in the clock too those tough ones when you guard well for 29 seconds and someone makes it virtually at the shot clock ending, but yeah we didn't let that discourage us we just, the teams been through a lot of adversity and we have been in a lot of close games and we've found ways to win close games so we know we could do it, it was good that the guys had another response there on the last possession." 

Kimani has had a pretty good season. Shaking off a rough start on Saturday and tonight was really tenacious on the offensive boards. four boards a lot of putbacks 
"Yeah, I mean yesterday we just, we had a hard day. It was not easy after the way we performed in the second half against Colorado so. But Kimani was a guy who, when I left the facility I had a good feeling about how he would compete today. Because he said, ya know, were gonna be different, we will be ready coach, and so he just kind of gave me confidence so I knew he was going to bring energy and bring effort today. He made a lot of effort plays for us in that game to help us win." 

Bobby, what can this win do to build the momentum going into a very difficult part of the schedule? 
"I think you're seeing a lot of, in the standings right now, there's some congestion. A lot of 2-3, 3-2 so this was a big game for us to really get our feet under us again and get a good feel heading onto the road and we stopped the 3-game losing streak so now we have a chance to build off tonight and hit the road next week."