Tempe, Ariz. • Utes junior guard Sedrick Barefield didn’t have time to think about his ups and downs this season. No time to worry about his shot not falling with regularity. He didn’t have time to hear his coach try to call for a timeout at the end of regulation.
Instead, Barefield took off and decided he had to get a bucket, and it wasn’t just any bucket. His 3-pointer at the end of regulation sent the game to overtime and despite some sloppy play in the waning minutes by both sides, Utah squeaked out an 80-77 win over No. 21 Arizona State at Wells Fargo Arena on Thursday night.
Barefield scored a team-high 17 points off the bench, and took over the reins for the Utes (13-7, 5-4 Pac-12) after leading scorer, point guard and floor general Justin Bibbins fouled out with 1:06 remaining in regulation. Barefield stepped in as the primary ballhandler and despite committing several late turnovers, he led the Utes to their third straight win.
“It’s all about just staying ready,” Barefield said. “I played, I think, seven minutes in the first half and I came in at a crucial time when Bibbs fouled out. For me, it just proves to myself that I’m capable, and that I just have to keep my head right and stay ready.”
Barefield, who has struggled with consistency this season (shooting 34 percent from the field, 28 percent on 3-pointers), moved to shooting guard to accommodate Bibbins, and recently accepted a role coming off the bench. Barefield went 5 of 7 from the field and 4 of 4 from behind the 3-point arc in 22 minutes.
“When I put him in and Justin fouled out, I said ‘Go win us the game,’ ” said Utes coach Larry Krystkowiak to Barefield. “It’s not always easy. I think a lot of expectations have been placed on Sed, and that’s not always fair. He’s making improvements, continued to grind, his defense is improving. I think the simplicity in some of his offense showed tonight. He jumped up and made some plays. He’s been working hard in practice so a little bit of karma, hopefully, came into play.”
The Utes won by the same score that the Sun Devils beat them by in Salt Lake City after a Bibbins 3-pointer rimmed out at the buzzer. This time around, something certainly seemed to be on the side of the Utes.
They made three turnovers in overtime while clinging to a two-point lead, and they also had two chances to ice the game in the final 21 seconds. David Collette missed a pair of free throws with 20.9 seconds left and the Utes up 79-77, and after a pair of missed 3-pointers by the Sun Devils and a blocked shot by Jayce Johnson (15 points, three blocks), Barefield made one of two to make it a 3-point game with 3.2 seconds left.
“Heart and effort, I think that’s pretty much it,” Johnson said. “We got a couple lucky balls that missed, and we got some rebounds. Our effort, that’s what it was.”
The wild end of regulation set the stage for Barefield’s heroics. With the Utes up by two points, Bibbins was fighting to get away from a defender as the Utes attempted to inbound under their own basket. The two got tangled up and went down in a heap, leading to Bibbins’ fifth foul and a huge roar from the Sun Devils faithful.
Arizona State’s Tra Holder drove the lane on the ensuing possession, scored and got fouled. His free throw gave the Sun Devils a one-point lead. After a missed 3-pointer by Utes senior forward Tyler Rawson, Arizona State senior Shannon Evans’ layup put the Utes down by three with nine seconds left.
Barefield, thinking he heard Krystkowiak say “go” instead of calling for a timeout, raced upcourt, crossed over and pulled up for a 3-pointer which tied the game.
“There is a God,” Krystkowiak said with a grin. “I’m glad (the officials) don’t pay attention.”