On Saturday, the Arizona State basketball team faces a challenge they have dealt with only once this season: rebounding from a loss.
Jahii Carson and company took to the court on Wednesday night for a highly anticipated tilt against the DePaul Blue Demons as they looked to prove their 8-1 record was more the factor of solid play than the result of a week nonconference slate.
After racing out to a 7-0 start in the first half, the Sun Devils collapsed in the worst possible sense before ultimately falling 78-61 to an improving DePaul squad. Though the Sun Devils brought an impressive 8-1 record into the matchup, they appeared no match for a stronger and more balanced DePaul team that finished with 37 bench points compared to just six points off the bench for Arizona State.
The Sun Devils shot 43 percent from the floor, but lacked their aim from distance on Wednesday night as they finished just 3-15 from the perimeter. The 61-point outing is the lowest point total of the season to date, and represents just the third time an opponent has held Arizona State below the 70-point mark.
This weekend, the Sun Devils have an opportunity to get back to their winning ways against a Dartmouth team that has struggled mightily in the early going this season. While the Sun Devils typically light up the scoreboard, the 2-6 Big Green have yet to amass 70 points once this season.
Dartmouth’s troubles include double-digit losses at the hands of New Hampshire and Holy Cross, and a 22-point defeat against the Elon Phoenix. However, the Big Green do feature some potential matchup issues the Sun Devils will have to deal with including 6-9 sophomore Gabas Maldunas who is averaging over 12 points per game in the early going and will test Sun Devil center Jordan Bachynski.
The Sun Devils have a lot to prove on Saturday afternoon, and must take advantage of the opportunity to persevere even after a tough loss.
Keys to Victory
1. Help Defense
The Sun Devils’ biggest issue in nonconference play has been their help defense, especially on the perimeter. Though Herb Sendek knew switching from a zone scheme to a man scheme this season would take time to adjust to, there is no excuse for the Sun Devils to leave shooters wide open on a consistent basis like they did against DePaul.
2. Start Your Engines
Jahii Carson is among the fastest players in the Pac-12, and Evan Gordon and Carrick Felix do a fantastic job keeping up with him on the break. The Sun Devils should use their team speed from the get-go to move past a Big Green defense that isn’t used to playing in transition.
3. Role Players Making Plays
Come conference play, the Sun Devils will not be able to rely on their starters to play all 40 minutes. Against a quality team like DePaul, Eric Jacobsen, Chris Colvin and Ruslan Pateev made a minimal impact. At least one of the Sun Devils needs to force the issue and become the sixth man this team needs to compete at a high level.
Matchup to Watch: Jordan Bachynski (Center) vs. Gabas Maldunas (Forward)
While Bachysnki averages around five blocks per game, the Sun Devil big man has not had his best outings against quality big men. Maldunas represents the Big Green’s best offensive weapon, and Dartmouth will look to have him make plays away from the hoop to open up passing lanes for their cutters.
After setting a career-high with 12 blocks against Cal State Northridge, Bachynski managed just two blocks against DePaul on Wednesday night and they routinely challenged him in the post. Bachynski has been hot and cold this season, and Saturday gives him another chance to improve and show his inside game is not a fluke.
Kerry Crowley: ASU 72, Dartmouth 55; MVP: Carrick Felix
Nick Krueger: ASU 85, Dartmouth 66; MVP: Carrick Felix
Evan Webeck: ASU 83, Dartmouth 58; MVP: Jahii Carson
Trey Lanthier: ASU 77, Dartmouth 69; MVP: Evan Gordon
Alex Gallant: ASU 79, Dartmouth 60; MVP: Jahii Carson
Cuyler Meade: ASU 77, Dartmouth 58; MVP: Jahii Carson