(Photo Courtesy: Steve Rodriguez/ASU Athletics)
Anyone using senior night as an excuse for Arizona State’s slow start yesterday is kidding themselves.
The difference between ASU’s 29-24 lead at halftime and their eventual 78-60 win over California was simply knocking down shots.
A fever of hot shooting broke out in the locker during the halftime intermission and it seemed as though no one covered their mouth when they coughed, or washed their hands thoroughly enough because that fever of blazing shooting got contagious as the second half progressed.
As has been the case numerous times this season, Jermaine Marshall kept the Sun Devils in the game with his offensive abilities. Marshall was the high scorer of the first half with 10 points in 13 minutes. The young man’s minutes were limited to 13 because he was in foul trouble for much of the half.
Marshall went 3 for 7 from the field and 2 for 4 from behind the three-point line. However, when the transfer wingman’s first half production is taken away the Sun Devils were left with 6 for 20 shooting from the field.
This was ASU’s predicament. The team had reasonable ball movement throughout the first half; they just simply were not putting the ball through the hoop.
However, whatever happened in the locker during halftime, whether it was Marshall sharing “Jermaine’s secret stuff” or someone shaking one too many hands, the feverish hot shooting dispersed to multiple members of the team.
ASU began the second half on a 13-4 run. Going into the first timeout of the half, the Sun Devils had a thermometer in their mouth and saw that their temperature was raising as they were shooting 6 for 7 from the field.
It rose further not only because of scorching shooting, but because of hustle. About seven minutes into the second half, senior Bo Barnes deflected a routine Cal inbound pass, which turned into a Shaquielle McKissic dunk.
Did someone mention a McKissic dunk? Yes, about two minutes after Barnes’ hustle play the Sun Devils checked their temperature once again and the mercury was glowing bright maroon in the thermometer’s bulb.
Their temperature reached its zenith when McKissic took it upon himself to drive the left baseline, jump on the left side of the basket, fully extend his arms, and dunk the ball emphatically on the right side of the basket with a defender accompanying him the entire way.
The California Bears still could not find a cure for the Sun Devils’ shooting fever as ASU was shooting 13 for 16 for the second half, an astonishing 81.3 percent from the field, at the 10-minute mark.
As the fever progressed, junior Jon Gilling made his first six shots of the game. Marshall’s foul trouble continued along with his sweltering shooting. Marshall finished with 22 points on 7 for 11 shooting, with six of those field goals being from behind the arc. Although Jahii Carson’s fever symptoms were not as flamboyant as some of his other teammates, he facilitated the ball movement that kept their strokes burning.
That is why the Sun Devils started sub-par and ended blistering. The simple art of putting the orange ball through the orange rim. The ball movement was present the entire time, but the shot making showed up fashionably late.
ASU continues to be a program of two different teams. Coach Herb Sendek even said in his press conference he long ago stopped trying to answer the “whys” about the reason this team’s play fluctuates between occasionally abysmal to incredible.
“It really would take a great sage to connect those dots,” Sendek said.
Sage, master, prophet: it would probably be tough for any of those individuals to crack the code as well. However, if the Sun Devils can continue to come down with a shooting fever as hot as this one, anything can happen.