(Photo: Scotty Bara/WCSN)
The defense came to play on Saturday night as the Arizona State Sun Devils toppled the Washington State Cougars, 67-55.
Sophomore guard Tra Holder led the way for ASU with a game-high 16 points on 5-for-12 shooting. Junior guard Andre Spight and junior forward Obinna Oleka also contributed with 13 points each.
The Sun Devils won this game on the defensive end, forcing Washington State to 17 turnovers on the night. ASU capitalized on the turnovers as well, scoring 16 points off of the mistakes.
Washington State was held to their second lowest scoring output this season, scoring just 55 points in the game.
After shooting 48 percent through the first 20 minutes and connecting on seven of its 14 three-pointers, ASU took a 40-32 lead into the half.
The second half was when the Sun Devils turned up the defensive intensity. ASU forced three turnovers on the first five possessions of the second half for Washington State, sparking a 7-0 run that put them up 47-32 with 17 minutes remaining.
From there, the Cougars never got within 10 points as they were able to close out the game with consistent defense down the stretch. After scoring 32 in the first half, Washington State was only able to muster 23 points in the second.
Player of the Game: Tra Holder
Holder was the star of the game for the Sun Devils as is the case in most of their wins this season. He scored 16 points and contributed with two rebounds and two assists as well.
Holder was able to generate points in a multitude of ways going 4-for-6 from the free throw line and 2-for4 from downtown. His ability to generate points for ASU has kept them in a lot of games and it was one of the key reasons the Sun Devils dominated Washington State.
Biggest Concern: Free throw shooting
For the second game in a row, ASU had a hard time connecting from the line. The team shot 14-for-25, an abysmal 56 percent, for the game at the free throw line. After starting the season as one of the better free throw shooting teams in the conference, ASU has struggled in the last handful of games. On most nights, a shooting performance that poor is the difference between a win and a loss.
Unsung Hero(s): Obinna Oleka & Andre Spight
Oftentimes, one player per game will step up for the Sun Devils and take the brunt of the offensive load for the night. ASU is at its best when multiple guys are scoring and creating a balanced offensive attack. The junior college players filled that roll for the night.
Oleka and Spight scored a combined 26 points and were 6-for-12 from three-point range, the area of the floor ASU has struggled with the most all season. Knocking down open looks has haunted the Sun Devils most of the season in close games and Oleka and Spight helped exorcise some demons against the Cougars
Stat of the Night: Seven turnovers
Against Washington State, the Sun Devils did a great job of protecting the ball. They were only forced into seven turnovers for the game and did not give the Cougars the chance to score after the few times they did give the ball up.
ASU forced 17 turnovers in the game and their +10 turnover margin was one of their largest of the season. Their activity on defense showed in the final score.
ASU will start a two-game home swing beginning with USC on Feb. 12th.