TEMPE, Ariz. — Utah opened Pac -12 play with the largest come-from-behind victory in the Larry Krystkowiak era. The Utes defeated Arizona State 96-86 Thursday evening at Wells Fargo Arena — erasing a 17-point deficit in the process.
“Coach always reiterates to us that we’re never out of a fight,” said senior guard Sedrick Barefield, who finished with a game-high 24 points. “We understood what type of team we were playing. We understood if we got stops it was going to go our way and if we didn’t, it was going to be a long night for us.”
There were plenty of contributions as the Utes improved to 7-6 overall and 1-0 in conference. Donnie Tillman and Timmy Allen posted career-highs with 22 and 17 points, respectively. Parker Van Dyke also had a solid outing with 13 points.
“It was a lot of resilience,” said Krystkowiak, who explained that the Utes settled in a little bit, guys saw the ball go in and “we just chipped away at it.”
Utah struggled mightily early in the game. The only lead the Utes held at that juncture was 3-2. Shortly thereafter, ASU reeled off seven straight points to take control. The Sun Devils eventually built a 28-11 advantage midway through the half. At the time, Utah was 3 of 11 from the field and had turned the ball over seven times.
“I didn’t even realize we were down 17 at one point in the game,” Tillman said. “I just looked up and I was like ‘Nah, the score is 0-0 in my mind.’ We had like a bad start.”
Tillman added that he looked at his teammates and he was like “let’s come back.”
A rally followed over the final 9:18 as the Utes outscored the Sun Devils 28-15 to climb back into contention. They took care of the ball and only had two miscues down the stretch. Rebounding was also a factor, with Utah leading that battle 21-16 at the break
Utah cut ASU’s lead to four points on two occasions late in the half — at 32-28 and later on a 3-pointer by Tillman in the final minute.
The Sun Devils held a 43-39 edge at halftime. Timmy Allen and Barefield had 10 and nine points, respectively, to lead the Utes. Tillman added eight. ASU’s Remy Martin led all scorers with 14 over the first 20 minutes.
When play resumed, it took just 10 seconds for Utah to close the gap to 43-42 on a 3-point shot by Van Dyke. ASU managed to regain a three-point margin before the Utes fired back with a basket by Allen and a trey by Tillman to take a 48-46 lead with 17:42 to go. The score grew to 50-47 less than a minute later when Jayce Johnson added a layup.
Following a pair of free throws by the Sun Devils, the Utes went outside with Tillman and Van Dyke hitting shots from beyond the arc to make it 56-49 with just under 16 minutes left to play.
The barrage continued a couple of minutes later, with Tillman contributing another long shot and Novak Topalovic adding a dunk to extend Utah’s lead to 61-49.31 comments on this story
ASU broke from its drought with five straight points to tighten things up a bit entering the last 12:43. The Sun Devils pulled as close as three points twice, but Barefield responded with a 3-pointer and a scoop shot to thwart the threat, giving the Utes a 70-62 cushion. He later finished another drive to the basket with an underhanded score and made another pivotal triple in response to ASU’s ensuing attempt at a comeback. Van Dyke also connected from long range as Utah carried a 78-68 lead into the remaining 4:55.
The Utes were never seriously challenged the rest of the way. Van Dyke and Tillman each hit a 3-pointer in the closing minutes to ensure the outcome.
Utah wound up equaling a team-record for points in a Pac-12 game. The Utes out-rebounded the Sun Devils 38-34, finished with 19 assists, and hit 16 3-point shots in the victory.
“It was an awful lot of fun to start league,” Krystkowiak said.
On Saturday, Utah will be in Tucson to face Arizona (noon, P12N).