(Photo: Scotty Bara/WCSN)
Points were not hard to come by at Wells Fargo Arena Wednesday afternoon, as the Sun Devils won a track meet over the Citadel Bulldogs 127-110, putting up the second-highest point total in program history.
The Sun Devils shot 54% from the field while the Citadel shot 50%.
The size advantage for the Sun Devils was evident from the get-go. The tallest player in the Citadel’s starting five stood just 6-foot-7-inches, and the Bulldogs struggled to keep the maroon and gold out of the paint. ASU outrebounded The Citadel just 45-41, but it was the first time the Sun Devils had outrebounded an opponent since the second game of the season against Cal Poly.
The game got off to the high-flying start that many expected, with the Sun Devils leading the Bulldogs 55-45 at halftime. The 55 points scored by the Sun Devils marked the second-highest first half total for ASU in the last 10 years. ASU put up 58 in the first half of a 2009 non-conference game against San Francisco.
After struggling to find his footing to begin the year, freshman Jethro Tshisumpa had his coming out party in the opening stanza for the Sun Devils. Tshisumpa, expected to be a defensive presence down low for ASU, had three blocks in the first half, including one emphatic rejection to get the crowd fired up.
Speaking of coming out parties, freshman Sam Cunliffe had the breakout game that Sun Devil fans were looking for, putting up a double-double with 23 points and 10 rebounds and looking much more comfortable on the court. Forward Obinna Oleka also had a double-double, finishing with 20 points and 15 boards.
In the second half, the Sun Devils went on some runs to try to put the game away, but could not seem to put away a pesky Citadel team, as the Bulldogs used their hot shooting and fast pace to keep up. However, ASU was able to exploit a Citadel defense that has not allowed less than 81 points in a game yet this season. Every time the Bulldogs would start to get close, the Devils would hit a big shot or go on a spurt to extend their lead once again.
ASU placed six players in double figures, including Cunliffe and Oleka. Guards Shannon Evans, Tra Holder, Torian Graham, and Kodi Justice dropped 17, 22, 19, and 20 points, respectively. The Sun Devils shot 21 more free throws than the Bulldogs.
The home win should give Arizona State a confidence boost going into arguably its toughest game of the season. The Sun Devils will next head to the Bahamas to face top-ranked Kentucky.