(Photo: Blake Benard/WCSN)
Arizona State tips off their second go-around against the Washington Huskies tonight, who have dropped in the standings since their last meeting.
The Sun Devils are coming off of a split series with the Oregon schools, dominating Oregon State 86-68, and losing to Oregon 91-74. Last time ASU and UW met, the Huskies won 89-85 in Tempe with UW senior guard Andrew Andrews having one of his best performances of the season.
Andrews is a frontrunner for Pac-12 player of the year, and his conference-leading 21 points per game speak to that. He posted 30 points to go along with 12 assists and six rebounds, getting virtually anything he wanted on the offensive end.
Since the last matchup, Hurley has decided to move on from putting senior guard Gerry Blakes on the best perimeter player, and that everyone will guard their respective positional matchups. So after shutting down Oregon State senior guard Gary Payton II last Thursday, sophomore guard Tra Holder will be faced with maybe an even bigger test with Andrews. Blakes on the other hand, will still have his hands full.
Blakes will be guarding UW freshman guard Dejounte Murray, who had 19 points and nine rebounds to go with three assists in these two teams’ first meeting. After that game, ASU Head Coach Bobby Hurley said Murray was the most impressive freshman they had faced all year long. Despite having faced the other freshmen like Cal’s Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb, as well as Oregon’s Tyler Dorsey, Hurley stands by his statement.
“He’s very explosive,” Hurley said. “Unbelievable first step and just covers so much ground and he’s got a breakdown handle, and he’s been shooting the ball better. He’s the real deal, he’s the complete package for what you’re looking for from a wing player.”
An inconsistency that has lost ASU more than one game this season has been its free throw shooting, and that took a toll on the Sun Devils in their last meeting with the Huskies. ASU shot 16 out of 29 from the free throw line, and having a margin of defeat less than five points makes that all the more cringeworthy.
With a 14-7 overall record and a 6-3 record in conference, the Huskies look to get themselves back to the top of the conference, while the Sun Devils try to get back into contention.
Keys to the Game
Attack the paint
While some teams may be tentative to get to the rim against Washington because of their shot-blocking junior forward Malik Dime, getting in the paint as often as possible will likely be very beneficial in the long run. In the last meeting, UW’s top three big men had at least three fouls, and that has not been an abnormality throughout the season.
Between Dime and freshmen forwards Marquese Chriss and Noah Dickerson, they combine to average more than 10 fouls per game. Chriss averages 4.1, and he makes the biggest impact on both ends of the floor averaging 11.9 points and five rebounds per game.
The Sun Devils took full advantage of the foul-prone forwards last game, shooting 29 free throws on the game. They set themselves up for success, now they need to finish the job and make their free throws.
Make the others beat you
The conference’s highest scoring offense is led by for the most part two players in Andrews and Murray. Taking them out of the game forces the three most foul-prone players to try and take over the game, and that is a tall task.
While nobody has been completely able to contain Andrews and Murray in the same game this year, the way Holder is playing on-ball defense along with Blakes could be a deadly combination.
Andrews and Murray complement each other perfectly, so stopping both may be near impossible, but forcing one to be off their game can potentially corrupt the UW offense.
Tipoff for this rematch is tonight at 9 p.m. in Seattle.