Utes lose another close game, falling to #4 Arizona State, 80-77

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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – The Utah men’s basketball team took the No. 4-ranked Arizona Sun Devils to the wire on Sunday, but the Runnin’ Utes came up short in an 80-77 loss at the Huntsman Center.

 “Hard fought game,” said head coach Larry Krystkowiak. “Basketball’s a game of mistakes. At the end of the day it comes down to probably taking a little bit better care of the ball. Not getting out-rebounded by a team that’s significantly smaller than us, in terms of what we can do differently next time. You know, it was a heck of a game.”

Justin Bibbins registered a game-high 22 points and junior Sedrick Barefield chipped in with 21 points, while ASU was led by Shannon Evans II’s 22-point effort and another 20 points from Kodi Justice on the evening.

Utah erased an 11-point first half deficit with a 16-4 run, that ended with dunk from David Collette, and gave the Utes its first lead of the game at the 4:49 mark of the first period. ASU regained the lead late in the period and led by five, up 35-30, with 1:34 to play in the half, but Utah countered with a three-pointer from Barefield and the Utes closed out the half on a 6-0 run to take a 36-35 lead into the locker room.

Despite ASU opening the second half on a 10-3 run and taking a six-point lead (45-39), Utah again managed to go on another run – this time a by a 15-8 margin – to regain the lead 54-43 at the 10:53 mark. Both teams would end up trading buckets and the game ended with the Sun Devils knocking down three of four free throws to earn the three-point win.

Utah and ASU were tied on 11 different occasions, which included four ties over the final 5:30 to play, and there were 18 different lead changes overall.

The loss drops Utah to 10-5 overall and 2-2 in Pac-12 play, while ASU improved to 13-2 on the season and 1-2 in the conference.

Utah will be back on the road next week taking on both Los Angeles-based squads. The Utes will open the week at UCLA next Thursday, Jan. 11 and will then close out the week taking on USC next Sunday, Jan. 14.

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