(Photo: Scotty Bara/WCSN)
Let the games begin.
On Thursday night at Wells Fargo Arena, Arizona State will open Pac-12 conference play against the University of Washington (8-5) that rallies behind senior guard C.J Wilcox who averages 20.5 points per game.
Last game for Washington was a close 73-67 win against Hartford. Wilcox had 23 points, 18 of which came in the second half alone. This was mostly due to Hartford switching from a zone defense to a man defense in the middle of the second half.
The Huskies took full advantage of Hartford’s defensive switch as UW finally got to run more guard-motion plays that it was more comfortable running.
Though getting into their offensive rhythm, UW still struggled on defense, a trend on the year partially due to the rule change on defense regarding more emphasis on hand checks. This rule has made UW rethink its entire defensive game plan. In the past, it has focused on playing aggressive defense to win games.
Nineteen-year-old freshman guard Nigel Williams-Goss is another key component of the UW team, averaging 12.6 points per game and leading the team with 57 assists so far this season.
ASU (11-2) will have to exploit some of UW’s weaknesses in order to pull out its first Pac-12 conference victory of the season.
Last game, ASU beat UC Irvine 74-61, furthering its 8-0 record at home. Shaquielle McKissic led the team with 18 points.
Jahii Carson, Jonathan Gilling and Penn State senior transfer Jermaine Marshall all scored in double figures, 16, 13, 10 points respectively.
Senior center Jordan Bachnyski grabbed 10 rebounds, scored nine points and had six blocks. Bachynski struggled early against UC Irvine’s 7-foot-6 freshman center Mamadou Ndiaye.
Keys to victory:
1. Free throws
One key difference between ASU and UW is the free throw shooting. ASU has a .681 free throw percentage, making 184 out of 274 from the line while UW has a .774 free throw percentage, making 274 out of 354 from the line. If UW can successfully slow down the game and drive the to basket while drawing the foul, ASU could run into some troubles. ASU is more of a perimeter shooting team so these free throw chances are limited. UW averages 21.1 made free throws per game while ASU averages 14.2 made free throws per game. If the game ever gets close at the end, free throws could be the deciding factor.
With UW having to scale back on its aggressiveness on defense this season, ASU must take advantage and take it to the basket. UW has a decent field goal percentage this season at .450, but its opponents have a .496 field goal percentage. UW can’t control the game as much as it has in the past with its defense so it has to be on top of its game on offense and hope for an ASU defensive breakdown. ASU should bring the zone defense to UW, instead of letting UW get comfortable against a man defense.
3. Bachynski controlling the paint
This week Bachynski will appear to have his way against a smaller UW lineup. When UC Irvine played Washington in mid-November, Ndiaye took it hard to the Huskies, scoring 18 points, grabbing eight rebounds and blocked nine shots. Bachynski can, and should have the same production against this Washington team. If Bachynski can take control of the paint then this will open of the perimeter shooting of Carson and Marshall.
Last season, ASU lost both games against Washington, one because ASU got outrebounded and the other because of poor free throw shooting by ASU. This year, ASU has the edge in the paint and with the team finally starting to become more balanced in its offensive attack, I see ASU winning 86-72.
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