(Photo: Nicole Hernandez/WCSN)
The Arizona State Sun Devils begin the final road trip of their regular season schedule on Thursday, heading north for a game against the Washington Huskies.
In their first match-up of the season on January 25th, ASU snapped a four-game losing streak with an 86-75 win over the Huskies. The star of that game was junior guard Tra Holder, who scored 21 of his 23 points in the second half to lead the Devils to victory.
Huskies star freshman guard Markelle Fultz finished with 28 points, eight rebounds and nine assists in that contest. Fultz leads the Pac-12 in scoring at 23.2 points per game, five more than second-best Torian Graham.
The battle between Fultz and ASU’s guard rotation, especially Holder, will be critical. ASU relies so heavily on guard play, but Fultz can be a one-man wrecking crew. The Sun Devils will need to defend him aggressively on the perimeter and double him when necessary.
Aggression could very well be what wins the day for ASU, given the differences in free throw shooting. In their last game, ASU went 23-34 from the stripe, compared to 6-13 for Washington. Overall, ASU is third in free throw percentage in the conference, while Washington is 11th. Given ASU’s defensive deficiencies, fouling may be less costly in this game if ASU can draw whistles for themselves.
Outside of free throw shooting, ASU was able to win the three-point battle, shooting 44 percent to Washington’s 35 percent. The Devils also scavenged 17 points off turnovers, dwarfing the Huskies two.
That same formula should be how ASU approaches this game, because the Huskies have the advantage in halfcourt sets. They had 20 assists on 29 made shots and are able to pick apart ASU on both ends in a slow-paced game, thanks in large part to the diverse skill-set of Fultz. ASU can counter by playing fast and a bit crazy to disrupt the Huskies flow.
The other factor against ASU is its struggles on hostile ground, as they are 3-6 in away games this season. However, the Huskies have not been phenomenal in their home arena either, boasting a 7-7 record.
The key to the game really is stopping Fultz, who seems to draw more and more NBA hype with each game he plays. If ASU can prevent Fultz from approaching 30 points and block his ability to kick to teammates, they can win. However, sometimes some of the best college basketball players can carry a team to victory through sheer willpower. ASU will have to key in on the opposing star to get this win.
The game tips at 9 P.M. Arizona time on Fox Sports 1.