IOWA CITY, Iowa - The first problem was the cancellation of the flight from Chicago, which led to a four-hour bus trip through the snow and a late-night arrival Friday to the team hotel for the Arizona State basketball team.
The Sun Devils weren’t using this as justification for their latest performance.
"A number of worse things could’ve happened," junior guard Kevin Kruger said. "We arrived here safely, we came to the game safe, we came to the game healthy, we can’t ask for anything more than that."
As it turned out, travel was buried on the list of troubles for the Sun Devils Saturday night after a 62-43 defeat against No. 22 Iowa in front of 10,902 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
ASU (4-3) suffered its most lopsided defeat of the season, going scoreless for 8 minutes, 35 seconds in one stretch and trailing 28-12 at halftime — the lowest first-half output for a Sun Devil team in 14 years. ASU turned the ball over 17 times and was held 36 points below its season average.
But coach Rob Evans said offensive issues weren’t the primary problem for his team.
"It’s all on the defensive end of the floor," he said. "We didn’t score, but our defense wasn’t solid enough to win a game on the road against a good ballclub."
Consequently, ASU dropped its third straight game after losing in overtime against Minnesota and falling last week against Utah Valley State.
"There’s nothing (positive) we can take," Kruger said. "We got embarrassed. They’re a good team and everything, but we’ve got no business being out of the ballgame that early."
This was against an Iowa team that played without four-year starting guard Jeff Horner, who missed his second straight game with a knee injury. ASU was shorthanded at the start, too, but for a different reason.
Evans benched Craig Austin and leading scorer Bryson Krueger for violating team curfew rules after the loss to Utah Valley State. He replaced them with Tyrone Jackson and Jeff Pendergraph, who Evans said was already in line for a promotion. The Sun Devils also got 27 minutes from Serge Angounou, who missed the past two games with a knee injury.
But none of these changes got the Sun Devils on track Saturday.
Iowa (8-3) was in control nearly from the onset. The Hawkeyes held ASU without a point from the 15:58 mark in the first half until Krueger made a layup with 7:23 to play before halftime.
ASU turned the ball over 10 times and shot just 26 percent in the first half, missing a handful of attempts just beyond layup range.
"We didn’t execute our offense at all," said Kruger, who led the Sun Devils with 12 points. "We didn’t play any defense, which leads to our offense. Basically, we did not do anything we were told to do.
"We played like we were running around out there blind."
Adam Haluska led Iowa with 17 points, while Greg Brunner added 12 points and 15 rebounds.
The Sun Devils were better in spurts during the second half, but they couldn’t sustain their success. ASU went on a 9-0 run, cutting Iowa’s lead to 42-32 on a Kruger 3-pointer with 10 minutes remaining.
The Hawkeyes responded with a 14-2 run of their own.