(Photo: Brady Klain/WCSN)
No. 20 ASU men’s basketball handled San Francisco 75-57 on Saturday, overcoming an ugly performance to pull away from an inferior team.
The Sun Devils (7-0) were sloppier with the ball than usual, committing 14 turnovers en route to their first sub-90 scoring output of the season. The Dons (3-3) played at a measured pace and didn’t allow ASU to dominate in transition.
The Sun Devils were never able to get in a consistent offensive rhythm in the halfcourt, either. USF committed 30 fouls and was extremely physical with ASU’s guards all night long. Tra Holder, who put up 40 on No. 21 Xavier last game, finished with just 15 points on 3-of-10 shooting.
“When you play at this level, you’re not always going to play your cleanest or your best game on offense,” ASU head coach Bobby Hurley said. “You’ve got to rely on the energy that you play with on both ends of the floor.”
ASU brought energy on the defensive end, but it didn’t necessarily bring its best game. The Dons shot a paltry 29 percent from the field, but much of that was a result of their own incompetence rather than defensive effort by the Sun Devils. 40 of USF’s 63 field goal attempts were three-pointers.
Defensive rotations have been the bugaboo for this group. Holder and Remy Martin have done well individually in the backcourt, and De’Quon Lake has been a shot-blocking force at times, but the Sun Devils still have momentary lapses on defense that could cost them down the road. As Hurley said, they’re not going to have outstanding offensive performances every night.
It’s been a euphoric start to the season for ASU. The Sun Devils are still among the most efficient offensive teams in the country and were able to manage an 18-point victory in their worst game so far.
“The game was a little bit choppy, between the free throws and a lot of fouls called,” Hurley said. “We gave up 15 offensive rebounds. That’s too many. We’ve got to do a better job at that.”
Balanced scoring is an area Hurley was particularly pleased with despite the sloppiness of the game. Five ASU players scored in double figures — a major plus when you only have a seven-man rotation.
It feels like this Sun Devil team is only scratching the surface of its potential. Its win over Xavier is beginning to look better and better after the Musketeers won back-to-back games over ranked teams this week. Another big two-game stretch lies ahead for ASU as well, with Mickey Mitchell eligible to play for the first time this weekend.
Getting Mitchell back will be huge as the Sun Devils travel to Kansas next Sunday for a date with the No. 2 Jayhawks. Before that, ASU will face off against St. John’s at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Friday.
“Our guards are going to get tested,” Hurley said, referencing the St. John’s game. “They’re an up-and-coming team in the Big East and they’ve played well early in the season.
“It’s two teams that are striving to be tournament teams.”
If all goes according to plan, Hurley and company will be undefeated when they arrive at Allen Fieldhouse. They’re the only undefeated team remaining in the Pac-12 and have captured the attention of the conference and country. Sunday will show whether or not they can contend with the nation’s elite.