(Photo: Josh Orcutt/WCSN)
Following a chaotic yet successful business trip to Brooklyn, the Arizona State Sun Devils are back in town to host the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos in their sixth game of the season.
ASU found a great win in the first of its two games in the Legends Classic at the Barclays Center, but fell to Marquette in overtime in the championship game. A lot was learned from those two rigorous matchups, but now ASU has another opponent that it is expected to beat.
UCSB is 2-2 on the season, with its only two losses coming at the hands of Pac-12 teams (Oregon State, Cal). In their most recent game, the Gauchos were victorious over San Francisco. Sophomore guard Gabe Vincent led all scorers with 18 points.
While Vincent was the leading scorer in that game and is also one of three Gauchos to average double-digit points so far this season, he is not the one to focus all attention on. Senior guard Michael Bryson leads all Gauchos in scoring at 17.3 points per game and also averages six rebounds.
Having faced plenty of good competition so far, the Gauchos are ready to take on whoever comes their way, and ASU has proven itself worthy of all praise after its showing in New York, but this will be a good test of consistency.
Keys to the Game
Gerry Blakes to the rescue
Offensively, senior guard Gerry Blakes has been all over the board this season. There have been games in which he takes over, and others where he has a quiet night. One thing that has remained consistent with Blakes’ play this season has been his defense.
Blakes has guarded the best perimeter player on the opposing team for the betteer part every game this season and has done a great job at it. The Belmont game was a great example, holding Craig Bradshaw, who averaged around 18 points per game last season, to 12 and forced him into a poor overall shooting night.
UCSB brings another near-20-point scorer to the table in Bryson, and it is assumed that Blakes will matchup with him.
Where Bryson differs from Bradshaw is how well he sniffs out rebounds, averaging around six per game. Blakes is very similar with his style of play, which makes this matchup all the more intriguing.
Staying out of foul trouble
ASU’s big men have jeopardized the team’s chances of winning games early on because of how easily they pick up quick fouls. Senior center Eric Jacobsen has continued to be the most susceptible to this, but junior forward Savon Goodman has picked up his share of early fouls as well this season.
Junior forward Obinna Oleka has proven to be a productive and reliable option off the bench for the foul-prone starters, but there is a reason they are in the starting lineup. Jacobsen and Goodman each provide their own way of changing the game when they are on the floor and removing that due to self-inflicted wounds over and over can ruin a game plan.
This will be an interesting situation to watch all season long, but with the nonconference schedule ticking away, now is the time to solve the issue before you get into when the games really matter in conference play.