Road Sweep! Sun Devils Hold off Utah for 63-61 Win on Jackson's Game Winner
The Sun Devil (12-16, 8-10) men's basketball team entered Saturday night's contest on the heels of a most dominating win at Colorado and winners of four of their last five games.
Despite not having leading scorer DJ Horne able to suit up due to a non-COVID related illness, they were able to make it five wins out of their last six by defeating the Utah Utes (11-18, 4-15) in thrilling fashion, 63-61, on a Marreon Jackson drive with six seconds remaining.
Neither team was able to separate themselves from the other in the first half. There were eight ties and four lead changes throughout the first 20 minutes, with the largest lead being four when Utah was up 13-9 with 14 minutes left in the half. Both teams were putting the ball in the basket at a high clip, mostly thanks to points in the paint. The Sun Devils shot .424 (14-of-33) from the field, with 18 points in the paint, while the Utes were at .481 (13-of-27) with 14 points in the paint. At the end of a back and forth half, a Jalen Graham bank shot gave the Sun Devils a 33-30 lead heading into the locker room.
The second half featured big runs from both teams. It appeared that the Sun Devils were prepared to take control of the game, as they connected on 9 of their first 11 second half shots while the Utes made just 3 of their first 12. With 15:30 left in the half, the Sun Devils went on an 11-to-1 run that stretched over 5 minutes and included a showtime alley-oop from Marreon Jackson to Alonzo Gaffney. This run concluded with a Jay Heath three-pointer, giving the Sun Devils their largest lead of the night at 52-38.
However, the Utes did not back down. They turned up their defensive intensity, forcing eight second half turnovers and outscoring the Sun Devils 23-to-11 over the final 11 minutes.
With just four minutes left in the game, the Sun Devils were up 59-49, looking like they were in complete control. Utah responded by scoring 10 straight points to tie the game at 59 and forcing the Sun Devils to call a timeout with 1:14 left. Coach Bobby Hurley drew up a play to get the ball in the hands of Jalen Graham, who was fouled on his shot attempt. Graham made both free throws to give the Sun Devils a 61-59 lead with less than a minute left.
The ensuing possession saw the Sun Devils fall allow Marco Anthony to get a wide-open dunk that tied the game at 61 with just 28 seconds and no timeouts left.
Marreon Jackson, who at this point in the game was just 1-of-8 from the field, calmly dribbled the ball up the court and initiated a play for himself where he turned the corner and flew downhill to get the go-ahead layup. The Utes scrambled to get the ball back down the court and put up a final shot attempt. Their short jumper hit everything but the bottom of the net, securing the win for the Sun Devils.
Arizona State made 12-of-20 (.600) shots from the field in the second half compared to the Utes who hit 10-of-25 (.400). Overall, the Sun Devils made 26 of their 53 shots, giving them their second-highest field goal percentage of the season at .491. Their highest percentage came on Thursday night's blowout win at Colorado, where they shot at a .492 clip.
Saturday night's game gave Kimani Lawrence the all-time record for most games played in a Sun Devil jersey (133) as he finished the night with 10 points and five rebounds. Jay Heath led all scorers with 20 points, 12 of them coming from behind the three-point line. Jalen Graham finished with 15 points and Luther Muhammad followed up his season-high performance last game with 10 points off the bench. Despite having a tough night from the field, Marreon Jackson stayed involved by dishing six assists, grabbing six rebounds, and finishing the game out for the Sun Devils.
The Sun Devils return to Desert Financial Arena to face California on Thursday, March 3, at 6 p.m. airing on Pac-12 Networks.