A triple-overtime game takes a lot out of a player — physically, mentally and emotionally.
After Utah’s 105-99 3OT loss to No. 8 Arizona on Thursday, even some of the 10,944 fans in attendance were drained when filing out of the Huntsman Center nearly three hours after the contest began.
Utah expended a ton of energy during its 16-point second-half comeback, and now has to make a quick turnaround as Arizona State arrives at the Huntsman Center on Saturday (6 p.m. MST, ESPN2).
“The way we were throwing haymakers in that second half, I mean haymakers, against one of the best teams in the country, it takes a lot out of (you), there’s no doubt about it,” Utah coach Craig Smith said.
Three Utes played marathon minutes — Gabe Madsen was on the court for 51, Deivon Smith played 49 and Branden Carlson played 44, with Keba Keita checking in at 35 and Hunter Erickson at 33.
“I mean you look at some of the minutes that some of these guys played, but we’re going for it all,” Craig Smith said. “Bring on the competition. It’s what we believe in, but these guys aren’t machines, but they have to do their rehab.
“They got to do due diligence with their body. We have guys that really care about it. We have a great sports performance team, so that’s the physical part.”
While Utah left everything out on the court on Thursday night, another aspect of the turnaround is the mental and emotional side of it after coming so close to a season-defining upset win against one of the country’s best teams.
“Then you got to have the mental side, the mental toughness, the mental discipline, the mentality that it takes to go out there. Everybody talks about mental toughness and everybody talks about physical toughness. The part they don’t always talk about is emotional,” Craig Smith said.
“This is a really emotional game. so now hoo, boy, you got to take on the challenge in a big time way against a team that quite frankly we’ve struggled with here. We’ve always had tight games with Arizona State almost every game except the last time.”
The tried-and-true coaches adage is to not let the same team beat you twice, to not dwell on a loss for too long and turn the page quickly. Deivon Smith, who had a triple-double in the loss, felt that it will be motivation for Saturday and the rest of the season.
“Honestly, it just shows where we’re at as a team, the fight we have,” he said. “Take out the first half and just we put together that second half how we did and we take that into the next game.
“I think the sky’s the limit for us. We can compete with the best, clearly. I just think it’s motivation for the rest of the season and all the games down the line.”
Arizona State (11-12, 5-7 Pac-12) enters Saturday’s game on a five-game losing streak, with an average margin of defeat of 13.6 points.
Utah is looking to break a four-game losing streak against the Sun Devils. Earlier this season, Arizona State beat Utah 82-70 behind 27 points from Jose Perez and 19 from Frankie Collins.
The Sun Devils shot 50% from the field, while Utah shot 41% and had 15 turnovers in the early January loss.
The tough defense that stymied Utah last month has been largely nonexistent through ASU’s recent stretch against Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, Cal and Colorado, as the Sun Devils are giving up an average of 79.6 points per game.
But even with Arizona State’s current form, after Utah’s endurance test on Thursday, the Sun Devils will test the Utes.
“They’re so long and so athletic and so our legs are going to be tested, but it’s going to be — emotionally, we got to be so invested and we have to be so mentally tough,” Craig Smith said.
“We know we’re not going to be perfect, but we have to find a way ... We have to play better and they will.”