USA TODAY Sports
Utah matches last year's Pac-12 win total with big final minute against Sun Devils.
This was certainly a game of runs. Utah started out well, fizzled a bit and then downright looked lost throughout portions of the second half. However, with only minutes left in the game, and potentially their final chance to win a conference game, the Runnin' Utes did something they've struggled to do all season long - they closed out a game.
It wasn't always pretty, and certainly there were moments where it looked like a loss was probable, but the victory now elevates Utah out of the Pac-12 cellar and possibly pops the Sun Devils' tournament bubble. Not bad for a team still trying to find their identity.
What's clear is that when Jason Washburn has a good game, generally Utah wins and that was the case tonight. Washburn finished with 26 points, tying his career high, and hit some clutch free throws down the stretch. It's just a shame the consistency isn't there, especially since he's a senior. With only a handful of games left in the 2013 season, and not much left to play for, an uptick in his performance won't necessarily lead to riches down the road - he's not a player who's returning, so improvement is pointless, and Utah isn't playing for anything except to be the Pac-12 spoiler.
Tonight, that's exactly the role they embraced. ASU, as I mentioned, was a bubble team entering tonight's game and they really couldn't afford a loss to Utah. So, if nothing else, at least the Runnin' Utes might've relegated 'em to the NIT.
But this win does offer a foundation for a potential late run and maybe, just maybe, a bid to the CBI. The Utes might not have a very good Pac-12 record - but this win puts 'em only two wins out of .500 overall and that generally is good enough to get a notice from the fledgling postseason tournament.
They can bolster their claim with an upset over Arizona Sunday.