My shot goes down and we have a different story right now. So it’s tough. —Utah guard Justin Bibbins
SALT LAKE CITY — Utah guard Justin Bibbins had a look of disbelief as he crouched near midcourt. His 3-point attempt with six seconds remaining went in and out of the basket, ultimately costing the Utes a chance to upset fourth-ranked Arizona State Sunday evening in the Huntsman Center.
The Sun Devils wound up prevailing 80-77 in a game featuring 18 lead changes and 11 ties.
“It looked like it was already in and then it just came out,” Bibbins said. “But that’s just the way it goes.”
Utah trailed 79-77 at the time.
“I don’t know how that shot came out,” Bibbins said. “I mean, that’s a shot I worked on before the game and I just couldn’t believe it came out.”
Arizona State was awarded the ball after an official review and Shannon Evans II capped all scoring in the wild affair by making one of two free throws with 0.6 seconds left to play.
Bibbins, who finished with a team-high 22 points, said the outcome was “numbing” as the Utes fell to 10-5 overall and 2-2 in Pac-12 play.
“My shot goes down and we have a different story right now,” Bibbins added. “So it’s tough.”
Utah was swept at home by the Arizona schools after opening the conference slate with a pair of victories in Oregon.
“It’s kind of hard to decompress a little bit, you know, a hard-fought game,” said Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak. “Basketball is a game of mistakes. At the end of the day it comes down to probably taking a little bit better care of the ball (and) not getting out-rebounded by a team that’s significantly smaller than us in terms of what we could do differently next time.”
Krystkowiak mentioned “certain elements” before opting not to elaborate. However, he did discuss the long shot attempt by Bibbins.
“I think it’s quite a bit more heartbreaking for me when I see that,” said Krystkowiak, who acknowledged he couldn’t express it. “It’s a lot of fun to have a 3-pointer like that and the importance of it. There’s no feeling in the world like when it goes in and there’s no feeling in the world when it bounces out.”
The same analogy with the shot, he explained, applies to wins and losses.
“There’s nothing like pulling off a big win and there’s really not a lower low,” Krystkowiak continued. “If I quit caring as much as I do then I’ll find something else to do, but it still smarts pretty significantly.”
Emotions ran high as Utah fell to a team ranked in the top five for the 10th consecutive time in a skid that followed a win over No. 1 Alabama in 2002. Shouting between unknown persons filtered into the room where Krystkowiak held his postgame press conference.
Krystkowiak paused briefly during the exchange. He then joking asked, “So, where was I?” before finishing with the media.
The game-winning points came on free throws by Mickey Mitchell with 21 seconds to go and the score tied at 77-77. Utah forward David Collette fouled out on the play. Collette had scored Utah’s final five points prior to the call.
After winning at Utah for the first time since 1975, Arizona State improved to 13-2 overall and 1-2 in the Pac-12. The victory followed consecutive setbacks at Arizona and Colorado.
“It just proves what we've been through as a team. Our non-conference schedule got us ready, and we've been in every game, every game we have answered the bell,” said Arizona State coach Bobby Hurley. “Even with the two that we lost to start off, we had our chances to win. I just love the determination of the team.”
Evans finished with 22 points and Kodi Justice added 20 for Arizona State. The Sun Devils topped the Utes in rebounding (32-25) and points off of turnovers (18-8).
Besides Bibbins, Utah had three other players score in double-figures — Sedrick Barefield (21), Collette (16) and Tyler Rawson (11).
The Utes overcame a sluggish start. They trailed 8-0 before scoring their first points on a basket by Rawson.
Barefield, Bibbins and Collette fueled a comeback that eventually put Utah on top at 24-23. The Utes went on to lead 36-35 at halftime.
Arizona State returned from the intermission with a 10-3 run before Utah eventually pulled back in front on six straight points by Collette midway through the half.
Nine more lead changes followed.
“We kept grinding and knew they were going to make some shots and stayed in the ballgame right to the end,” Krystkowiak said.
The Utes travel to Los Angeles this week. They play UCLA on Thursday (9 p.m., ESPN2) and USC on Sunday (6 p.m., ESPNU).
EXTRA STUFF: The attendance was 12,123. Redshirt freshman Chris Seeley, who has been sidelined following gallbladder surgery, saw his first action since the Missouri game on Nov. 16. He was scoreless in two minutes. Krystkowiak declined to say why Donnie Tillman did not play. He logged 19 minutes against Arizona Thursday after missing four games with a foot injury.
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