(Photo: Scotty Bara/WCSN)
In their fourth crack at getting their first Pac-12 victory, Bobby Hurley and the Arizona State Sun Devils got it done thanks to a flood of three-pointers in a 84-73 victory over Washington State. Sophomore guard Tra Holder finished with 20 points for ASU, and junior forward Josh Hawkinson had a double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds for the Cougars.
Junior forward Obinna Oleka got the Sun Devils going with five of their first seven points as they jumped out to a quick 7-3 lead three minutes in. The Cougars responded with four straight from junior guards Que Johnson and Ike Iroegbu to tie it up at the first media timeout.
A Sun Devils cold spell forced them to make one of their next seven shots, but fortunately they were only down one. Sophomore guard Kodi Justice gave the Sun Devils the lead again hitting a three on his first shot of the game, and held a 15-13 lead with eleven minutes to go in the first half.
Both teams at this point were shooting 38 percent from the floor, and combined to make two of their last 13 attempts. The only thing separating the two teams at this point in the game was the three-point shooting, ASU had made two while WSU had yet to make one.
With 7:36 to go in the half, the Sun Devils led 17-13. Despite a 7-0 run, ASU still only made two of their last ten shots, and the Cougars had a scoring drought of over six minutes. The lead was increased to 12 when Holder made his first appearance in the scoring column, knocking down consecutive three-pointers to make it 25-13 ASU.
ASU was on a 17-0 run and counting, and WSU head coach Ernie Kent decided to put Hawkinson into the game despite his three fouls that all occurred earlier in the half. The Cougars shooting woes still continued, only scoring twice in a ten minute stretch.
The half closed on a bucket from Iroegbu to bring the Cougars to within 15, with the score being 40-25. Holder led all scorers with ten.
WSU came out much of the break much better than when they entered it, going on a quick 7-0 run in the first two minutes, forcing the Sun Devils to take a timeout. The Sun Devils on the other hand, missed their first four attempts. Following the timeout the Cougars scored immediately on an Iroegbu three-pointer to bring it within five.
After the slow start to the half, the Sun Devils went on an 8-0 run to bring their lead back up to 13 thanks to another three from Justice, only to make another one within minutes. With 13:30 remaining, the Sun Devils led by 19.
The threes continued to fall for ASU, making three threes in 1:30. Justice accounted for two of them, and junior guard Andre Spight made one, his first made shot of the night.
With eight minutes remaining in the game, the Kodi Justice show continued. After corralling a rebound, he pushed it up the floor and found senior forward Willie Atwood with a behind-the-back pass who finished off the break with a thundering two-handed dunk. At this point, the Sun Devils led 63-52.
At the five-minute mark, the Sun Devils held a 73-56 lead thanks to their hounding defense as well as their outstanding three-point shooting, and there was no looking back.
Player of the Game: Kodi Justice
Justice did what Justice has done all year long, and that is provide a spark off the bench from long range. In a stretch just longer than four minutes, Justice made three of his four three pointers. There is no way Justice’s range isn’t all over team’s scouting reports, but he keeps finding open looks from beyond the arc. He finished with 16 points.
Biggest Concern: Gerry Blakes
Despite the explosive offensive second half for the Sun Devils, Blakes still can’t seem to find a rhythm. He finished making one of his five shot attempt and missing all four of his three-pointers, and has only made one three-pointer in conference play. Blakes fouled out with 5:29 remaining in the game.
Unsung Hero: Obinna Oleka
Oleka got off to a hot start making two of his first three shots, and was just as effective on the glass. He finished with 10 rebounds to go with his 11 points, and was constantly on the ground for loose balls.
Stat of the Night: 10 threes made
The Sun Devils didn’t shoot particularly well, but when they made a shot there was a good chance that it was from beyond the arc. Largely thanks to the barrage from Justice, this is what pushed the Sun Devils so far ahead.
ASU plays Washington on Saturday, Jan. 16 in Tempe.