(Photo: Scotty Bara/WCSN)
In the second of the hardest three-game stretch of Arizona State’s deadly nonconference schedule, the Sun Devils managed to pull out another impressive victory, this time over the No. 18 Texas A&M Aggies. Senior forward Willie Atwood finished with and three three-pointers. TAMU senior guard Danuel House had 17 points for the Aggies.
Two three-pointers got ASU going by seniors Gerry Blakes and Atwood to give them an early 8-6 lead five minutes into the game. Texas A&M responded to the ASU start by missing four straight shots and turning the ball over three times.
After more feisty defense and perfect 4-for-4 free throw shooting, the Sun Devils went ahead 17-8 on a transition three from sophomore guard Kodi Justice with 12 minutes to go in the half. Despite the large early lead, neither team was shooting particularly well with ASU only shooting 36 percent compared to the Aggies’ 27 percent.
It seemed nearly every Sun Devil three-point shooter had knocked on down except for junior guard Andre Spight, until he knocked one down at the 10:40 mark to extend the lead 22-8.
With four minutes left in the half, ASU led the Aggies 26-16 and neither team had managed to find a rhythm offensively. For ASU, not only had every player that got in the games scored, but each one had only made one shot.
At halftime the Sun Devils led 33-19, and the Aggies went into the half missing their last eight shot attempts and only making one of their last eleven. TAMU finished the half shooting 22 percent. Justice led all scorers with nine – all on three pointers.
The second half started very similarly as how the first half ended, TAMU had three turnovers and eight fouls in the first three-and-a-half minutes, and ASU had extended their lead to 21 after a Blakes three making it 40-21.
After a slight drought approaching the midway point in the second half, the Aggies managed to chip away at the Sun Devil lead and make it 51-35 Sun Devils with 11:42 left in the game. Despite this, the Sun Devils had been in the bonus since around the 16 minute mark, and the Aggies had four players with at least three fouls.
Sophomore guard Tra Holder ended the Sun Devil scoring drought hitting a three-pointer with 10:12 remaining in the game. Blakes came right back the following possession and hit a floater to make it 56-39 Sun Devils.
The Aggies managed to crawl back in the game, cutting the lead to 11 with five minutes remaining. At the four minute mark, Atwood responded with a long two, but TAMU senior guard Alex Caruso drilled a three to cut the lead to 10.
ASU’s lead was down to as little as eight, and with just above two minutes remaining, Holder hit a clutch floater to get it back to 10, and then fed a beautiful dish to junior forward Savon Goodman, and the 12-point lead was unmanageable for the Aggies.
Player of the Game: Willie Atwood
Atwood continued his hot shooting from the Creighton game, Atwood finished with 15 points and shot 62.5 percent from the floor. His efficient shooting came largely from his great shot selection, and he led the charge in the Sun Devils’ hot shooting night from downtown.
Biggest Concern: Fouls, again.
Goodman and senior center Eric Jacobsen both got into foul trouble again, and had four apiece midway through the second half when ASU was trying to put the game away.
Unsung Hero: Obinna Oleka
While his numbers may not completely show the impact he actually had on the game, he saved the day again in the first half when junior forward Savon Goodman got into foul trouble. In yet another matchup where he was for the most part undersized all game, he was competing for every rebound, as well as diving on the floor for loose balls. He did everything that doesn’t show up on the stat sheet.
Stat of the Night: 10 threes made
The Sun Devils were burying triples from the get-go, and it was a large reason why ASU was able to jump out to such a huge lead early on. Five Sun Devils made a three in the game, and shot 33 percent as a team.
ASU plays Kentucky on December 12 in Lexington.