(Photo: Scotty Bara/WCSN)
Uncharacteristically, Arizona State shot out of the gates and buried the Oregon State Beavers early, getting the win 86-68. Senior forward Willie Atwood had 13 points and six rebounds for the Sun Devils, and freshman forward Tres Tinkle had 12 for the Beavers.
ASU got off to a quick start thanks to the play of senior center Eric Jacobsen. He scored five of the first ten Sun Devil points, joined by fellow senior forward Willie Atwood who scored the other five. At the first media timeout ASU led 12-5, making five of their first seven shots.
Senior guard Gerry Blakes contributed five of his own after hitting a long three coming out of the timeout, and all three seniors compiling the first 15 points. Shortly after, junior forward Obinna Oleka made a three of his own, and the Sun Devils made three of six shots from three and held a commanding 18-5 lead six minutes in.
The Beavers on the other hand made two of their first 11 attempts, and went on a 4:30 scoring drought in which they also had four turnovers reaching the 12 minute mark. This drought continued all the way through the halfway point in the first half, missing 12 of 13 attempts until freshman guard Stephen Thompson Jr. hit a three to make it 21-9 Sun Devils.
With six minutes remaining in the half Jacobsen found Oleka on a skip pass to the corner, and Oleka did his part and made his second three of the game to extend the lead to 21. The Beavers finally broke double-digits with five minutes remaining in the first half when junior guard Malcolm Duvivier hit a three to make it 30-12 ASU.
Atwood hit another three-pointer with 30 seconds remaining, and the Sun Devils were ahead 36-17 at halftime. Beavers’ star redshirt guard Gary Payton II was a non-factor in the first half with no points, missing his three attempts from the floor and two from the free throw line. He managed to grab one rebound and record one assist, but also had two fouls.
The second half began much like the first, ASU dialed in from three as Blakes hit one as the shot clock expired, and OSU making only three of their first seven shots. That was Blakes’ second three of the night, and he had only made four in the seven conference games before this one. After five straight makes, the Sun Devils led 51-28.
Oregon State went to the free throw line with 13:47 remaining, and in the ASU student section’s “Curtain of Distraction” was Olympic gold medalist and ASU assistant swim coach Michael Phelps, dancing with a speedo on. The shooter missed both, and on the other end was a thundering dunk from junior forward Savon Goodman to put the Sun Devils up 53-28.
Payton II scored his first bucket of the night with 11:05 remaining in the second half after stealing the ball from sophomore guard Kodi Justice.
The first bucket under the 10 minute mark came from Atwood as he knocked down a mid-range jumper and got fouled. Atwood made the free throw to give the Sun Devils a 22-point lead with 9:45 left in the game. With about eight minutes remaining, Justice drained his first three of the game, and the eighth of the game for the Sun Devils.
Justice hit another three with four minutes left, and with 3:22 remaining in the game ASU led 79-57 and it was just a matter of time until they found their second conference win.
Player of the Game: Gerry Blakes
After having a long rough stretch of shooting games, Blakes brought his A-game knocking down two threes to contribute to his 16 points. His two buzzer-beating three pointers gave the team a lot of momentum, and his defense played just as big a part. He was a large part in forcing Payton II to one of his worst games of the season, playing lockdown defender all night.
Biggest Concern: None
This was the best overall performance the Sun Devils have had in conference play this year, and the best part is they performed for a full 40 minutes.
Unsung Hero: The Defense
Obviously the offense is going to get plenty of attention for their full game of explosiveness, but the defense was just as impressive. While Oregon State isn’t the best offense in the conference, they were completely out of sync tonight. The Beavers shoot the least threes in the conference, and the Sun Devils forced them to shoot 26. Tinkle was the only Beaver that seemed to be able to make any plays off the dribble, as a whole the Beavers looked extremely uncomfortable all night.
Stat of the Night: 11 threes
It was another one of those nights for the Sun Devils, draining 11 threes. This comes every few games for the Sun Devils, where there is a just a barrage of threes that come at the right time. Fortunately, the bombardment came in a win that ASU needed desperately.
The Sun Devils next game will be on Monday against the Oregon Ducks at Wells Fargo Arena. Tip-off will be at 6:30.