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ASU Men’s Basketball: Shortcomings on the defensive end are once again the achilles’ heel for the Sun Devils

(Photo: Scotty Bara/WCSN)

Despite a valiant push towards the end, ASU were unable to pull out a victory as they fell at home to 9th ranked Creighton 96-85.

The absence of Sam Cunliffe and lack of depth was once again a tremendous issue for the Sun Devils. Four of ASU’s starters played at least 36 minutes; with senior guard Kodi Justice playing only 30 minutes due to fouling out late in the second half.

ASU (6-6) had absolutely no help from their bench in crunch time, which has been a consistent theme this season.

The only Sun Devil off the bench who played more than four minutes was freshman center Jethro Tshisumpa, and he only managed to stay on the court for 15 minutes of action. Tshisumpa was not extremely effective and managed to tally just four points and four rebounds.

ASU junior guard Tra Holder had another solid performance on the night. He tied for the team lead in scoring and assists with 24 points and five assists, while also pulling down seven rebounds. Holder’s uptick in rebounding was indicative of ASU’s ability to manage the boards during the game, both on the offensive and defensive end.

Despite their severely short lineup, the Sun Devils were able to outrebound Creighton 37-36, with 15 of those boards coming on the offensive end. This was largely thanks to the tenacious play of senior forward Obinna Oleka.

Oleka had a game-high 16 rebounds (five offensive) and scored 19 points on 50 percent shooting from the field. Oleka has consistently been the driving force behind any success ASU has had rebounding the ball but his teammates have done little to help him out.

While Oleka averages almost ten rebounds per game the next best rebounder for the Sun Devils is senior guard Torian Graham, who reels in just four rebounds per game. The rest of ASU’s lineup has to step up on the glass if the Sun Devils want to have any chance at turning their season around.

ASU defense on the perimeter was especially porous tonight against a potent Creighton offense. The Blue Jays shot over 53 percent from the field and hit 14 threes on 56 percent shooting from behind the arc.

Leading the way for Creighton once again was junior guard Marcus Foster, who was lighting up the Sun Devils all game long. Foster poured in a game-high 29 points while nailing three shots from deep.

The Blue Jays were consistently hitting threes throughout the game and were able to get a ton of easy looks on the perimeter. Five different Creighton players hit at least one three during the game. However, this kind of performance was somewhat expected from the Blue Jays, as they have the best three-point shooting percentage of any team in the nation at an average of 44 percent per game.

ASU will look to rebound from the tough loss on December 22 when they take on the University of Central Arkansas at home. Tip-off for that game is at 12 p.m. on the Pac-12 Network.

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