(Photo: Scotty Bara/WCSN)
The Arizona State Sun Devils look to follow up their first Pac-12 victory of the season with their second straight as they take on the young Washington Huskies, who have won four of their last six games.
Projected to finish 11th in the conference by the media in the preseason poll, the Huskies are most recently coming off a loss to Arizona in which they gave up their highest point total of the season while scoring their second-lowest point total. The 99-67 defeat was Washington’s fifth loss of the season to accommodate its 11 wins, and it is currently sitting at third place in the conference.
In the last series Washington played in, they swept the Los Angeles schools at home. In its 96-93 win over UCLA, the Huskies took the Bruins to double-overtime and showed plenty of poise despite being the youngest team in the conference by finishing the job against a persistent UCLA team.
The USC win was even more impressive as the Huskies came back from down 22 points and handed the Trojans their only loss of the conference season thus far. In this win and so many others, there have been two common factors: their veteran, and one of their many freshmen.
Senior guard Andrew Andrews is the Pac-12’s leading scorer averaging 20.8 points per game and knocking down more than 40 percent of his three pointers. He is the lone senior on the team and has led this team of fantastic freshmen, including with freshman guard Dejounte Murray, who has burst onto the stage as one of the best freshmen in the country.
Murray is averaging 14.8 points per game, 5.9 rebounds per game, 4.8 assists per game, and 1.8 steals per game. He does it all for the high-paced Huskies, and has had his best games in conference play where he posted his career-high of 29 points against USC.
Statistically, Washington matches up favorably with USC, a high-scoring offense that puts up a lot of shots and will likely give the opposing team their season-high for rebounds. The Sun Devils have already lost to USC this season, so there are adjustments that will need to be made to outdo themselves and take down the Huskies.
Keys to the Game
Make them win from the outside
Other than Andrews, the Huskies don’t have a prolific three-point shooting threat. While Murray and fellow freshman guard David Crisp have proven capable of knocking down multiple threes in a game, neither have proven to be a consistent option worth worrying about. The Huskies have the third worst three-point shooting percentage in the conference at 32.8 percent, and if there is one thing the Huskies have done this season is use their athleticism to attack the basket.
Murray almost single-handedly brought the Huskies back in the USC game, and a lot of his points came from his resiliency and persistence to get to the rim. Expect the Sun Devils to run more zone defense than they normally would to try and control the pace and make Washington take long distance shots because if it’s going to come down to man-to-man matchups in the open court, ASU will be in trouble.
Don’t get into foul trouble
Speaking of pace, the Huskies run-and-gun offense could wear down ASU and force the Sun Devils into some shaky defensive scenarios where fatigue can cause lazy fouls. While Washington plays mostly freshmen, they have considerably more depth in the frontcourt than ASU does.
While the Sun Devils want to make Washington a jump-shooting team, Andrews has shot at least 12 free throws in seven games this season, and he drives the lane much less frequently than Murray.
Foul trouble in the frontcourt hasn’t been a major issue in a few games for the Sun Devils, but Washington is likely to exploit these issues once again.