(Photo: Scotty Bara/WCSN)
Despite poor shooting early in the game, the Arizona State Sun Devils turned on the offense late and pulled out a 75-59 win over the Cal State Bakersfield Roadrunners in Tempe. Sophomore guard Tra Holder led the way for ASU, setting a career-high with 23 points and adding five rebounds to go along with three assists.
ASU started the game very slowly, shooting just 29 percent from the field in the first half. The Sun Devils went 2-for-9 from behind the arc during that stretch.
CSUB also outhustled ASU in the first half, winning the rebounding battle and forcing contested jump shots. The mix of bad offensive execution by ASU and active defense by the Roadrunners led to a one-point ASU lead, 29-28 at the half.
Both teams went back and forth for the first few minutes of the second half as the lead never grew more than five points for either team. Holder came alive late in the second half to put his stamp on the game.
Holder scored 15 of his 23 points in the second half and went 3-for-3 from behind the arc. He ran the offense effectively and helped open up the floodgates with his scoring. The rest of the offense for the Sun Devils followed suit as ASU scored 42 points in the second half.
Up by six with the score at 61-55 with just 2:10 left, Holder drove the lane and kicked the ball out to junior guard Andre Spight, who was wide open in the corner. Spight drained the three-pointer and got fouled to put the game away for good.
Player of the Game: Tra Holder
Holder came up huge for ASU late in the game. With the Sun Devils lacking an outside shooting touch, Holder provided the spark, going a perfect 3-for-3 from downtown. His shooting was the catalyst for the rest of the team. Holder also added two key steals down the stretch that led to points.
This is nothing new for Holder as he leads the team in both scoring and assists. His consistently excellent play has kept ASU afloat during times when they have struggled otherwise.
Biggest Concern: Rebounding
The absence of junior forward Savon Goodman finally caught up to ASU. Goodman, the team’s leading rebounder, missed his fourth game due to personal reasons and was sorely missed.
The Sun Devils got outrebounded 48-29 in the game and allowed whopping 18 offensive rebounds. The extra possessions gave CSUB 11 second chance points and kept the game close throughout.
Unsung Hero: Gerry Blakes
Senior guard Gerry Blakes played an important part in keeping the Sun Devils in the game in the first half. While ASU struggled, Blakes was the only player consistently scoring and hustling.
Blakes was the only Sun Devil in double-figures in the first half, as he scored 10 of the team’s 29 points on 3-for-6 shooting from the field. His perimeter defense helped keep the offense of the Roadrunners in check on the other end of the floor. Without Blakes’ excellent play early in the game, the Sun Devils may have been down at halftime.
Stat of the Night: 7-11 three-point shooting
After going 2-for-9 from three-point range in the first half, ASU started to make their long-range shots in the second half. Spight went 2-for-4, senior forward Willie Atwood went 1-for-1, and Blakes went 1-for-3 to give the Sun Devils a respectable 7-for-11 shooting half.
Even though they started terribly, the Sun Devils finished 9-for-20 for the game. At 45 percent, that makes it one of the better shooting nights for the Sun Devils this season.
ASU will take on Arizona at Wells Fargo Arena in Tempe on January 3.