(Photo: Scotty Bara/WCSN)
In the first of a four-game home stretch, Arizona State caught fire and dominated Houston Baptist 98-79. Sophomore guard Kodi Justice led all scorers with 20 points and six three-pointers. Redshirt senior guard Anthony Odunsi had 16 points for the Huskies.
The Sun Devils took an 8-7 lead thanks to five points by senior center Eric Jacobsen, but HBU senior guard hit his second three of the game to take a 12-8 advantage.
HBU was in foul trouble early on and ASU was in the bonus with just above 13 minutes remaining in the first half. Thanks to free throw shooting and sophomore guard Kodi Justice pushing the tempo and creating opportunities in the open court, ASU led 18-12 with 11:27 remaining in the half.
In the 9-0 run which included no turnovers for the Sun Devils, HBU made one of their last eight attempts and turned the ball over twice.
ASU began shooting the ball much better under the ten-minute mark, making four shots in a row going into a timeout with just under seven minutes to go in the half. Despite this, HBU was hanging around making four of seven shots including two three-pointers, and only trailed by eight.
Jacobsen continued to make his mark on the game scoring five straight Sun Devil points, and also took a charge which led to a three made by junior guard Andre Spight to extend the ASU lead to 15 points.
The lead was extended to 16 when sophomore guard Tra Holder found senior forward Willie Atwood with a no-look pass under the basket, setting Atwood up for an open one-handed dunk. That would be the Sun Devils 14th shot made, and 11 of them were assisted on.
ASU led the Huskies 49-33 at halftime, Jacobsen and Holder led all scorers with 10 apiece.
Both Jacobsen and Holder picked up right where they left off, scoring 11 of the Sun Devils’ first 13 points of the second half.
With around fifteen minutes remaining in the game, the Sun Devils held a 21-point lead, until Justice provided his gamely spark. He hit one three-pointer from far beyond the three-point line, and the following possession Holder found Justice again from even farther out and he hit another three. Two possessions later, after a free throw line jumper from junior forward Obinna Oleka, Justice stepped deeper yet again and drilled another three to put the Sun Devils up 30. Justice finished with a career-high 18 points and six made threes on eight attempts from downtown.
Amidst a run in which the Sun Devils made seven shots in a row, they buried the Huskies early in the second half.
Player of the Game: Kodi Justice
Justice was pouring in three-pointers on his big day, and showed signs of being a potential zone-buster that ASU might need in the future. The sophomore guard complemented Holder very well as they both created huge problems for the Huskies in prioritizing their defensive responsibilities.
Biggest Concern: Rebounding Margin
ASU was dominant in nearly every category, except rebounds. For a team that has been one of the best in the conference in rebounding to this point, you would think the discrepancy in rebounding would have reflected the score. ASU only outrebounded HBU 40-37.
Unsung Hero: Willie Atwood
Atwood continues to excel in the absence of junior forward Savon Goodman. A strong first half of seven points, five rebounds, and three assists, his quiet second half doesn’t reflect the impact he had on the defensive end.
Stat of the Game: Eight turnovers
By far the most outstanding facet of the all-around domination the Sun Devils put on HBU was how well they took care of the ball. ASU only had three turnovers in the first half, and finished with just eight total.
The Sun Devils take on Stephen F. Austin at Wells Fargo Arena on Tuesday, Dec 22.