(Photo: Tyler Rittenhouse/WCSN)
Behind strong play for its newcomers and veteran guards, the Arizona State Sun Devils won their season opener 94-74 over the Idaho State Bengals on Friday.
The Sun Devils started slow, as sloppy passing and off-the-ball fouls on offense led to an early deficit. It didn’t last long, as ASU found its rhythm after the first TV timeout thanks to the play of its guards, who led the team on a 9-0 run with the help of Bengal turnovers.
“I thought we did a good job in terms of turning them over in the first half,” ASU head coach Bobby Hurley said. “They had 11 turnovers which I think is attributed to what we’ve been preaching and asking from our guards with the ball pressure. I didn’t love our defense in the second half, I thought we gave up too many drives as the game wore on.”
ASU was quick to shoot the ball on its possessions in the first half and into the second, never seeming to take more than 10-15 seconds to come up with a shot. Idaho State was doing the opposite, but it started working just as effectively, as its three-point shooting brought them back into the game tying it 28-28.
However, the team started playing with a noticeable edge after that, as it seemed whenever Idaho State made a key bucket, either freshman Remy Martin or senior Tra Holder would be quick to take it the other way and score in response.
The Sun Devils stuck to a consistent game plan throughout the contest, which they established on their 23-5 run to close out the first half.
On offense, the Devils shot threes fearlessly, led by five from senior guard Shannon Evans, who posted a game-high 25 points. As good as the outside shooting was, junior transfer De’Quon Lake was relentlessly throwing down dunks on Idaho State’s big men, who couldn’t seem to do much more than foul Lake to stop him from scoring down low. He finished with 24 points.
“He just had a tremendous week of practice,” Hurley said. “He’s had the best week of practice that I’ve seen from him so leading into the game not completely surprised by how good he played tonight.”
The defensive game plan was simple yet effective. It consisted of a combination of pestering press defense by Martin and Holder, effective rim-protection from Lake, and strong rebounding by Holder, Lake and freshman power forward Vitaliy Shibel.
“We got some long rebounds, we had some hustle offensive boards which got us some second possessions our guards and De’quon tipping them back out so that was nice to see,” Hurley said. “Hopefully when we get Romello (White) back at some point and then Mickey Mitchell is another guy that’s going to help our rebounding and our defense.”
ASU didn’t change its style of play despite the growing lead. Holder and Martin continued to press Idaho State’s ballhandlers and were quick to shoot on several offensive possessions.
“If we feel we got a good look the ball’s going to go up,” Evans said. “I trust (my teammates) to shoot the ball, I mean for their judgement if they got a good shot let it fly.”
Specifically, Martin looked comfortable in an already stacked backcourt. He displayed good vision, seeming to know when to pass the ball or drive to the hoop, and it showed in his 6-8 shooting from the field and five assists.
“He had one stretch where he had a couple of turnovers and I got mad at him just because I haven’t seen him make a lot of bad decisions even as fast as he plays,” Hurley said. “I was surprised that he turned it over twice in a row in the second half, but other than that he was really good.”
ASU returns to action Tuesday night when it hosts San Diego State at 7 p.m.