Three-point shooting lifts ASU over Bulldogs

The score may have been deceiving, but the result was much welcomed. ASU was 11 of 24 beyond the arc and thanks to their defense overcame their sloppy play at times. The hosts limited Gardner-Webb to 30.4 percent shooting from the field but weren't able to totally shake off the pesky visitors from North Carolina until late in the game, as they got back in the winning column with a 71-48 victory.

Arizona State (4-4) was in the midst of a three-game losing streak entering Saturday's afternoon contest against Gardner-Webb (6-7) and the Bulldogs' performance this season already had the full attention of Sun Devil skipper Herb Sendek in the week leading up to today's contest.

"I thought our guys gave a really good effort on defense today," Sendek said. "We were really concerned coming in about Gardner-Webb's potency on offense. They do a good job of spacing the floor. They set a myriad of ball screens at every possible angle and they shoot the ball.

"In the two games previous to this I know they were 16-32 shooting the ball from the three point area. So to hold them to 48 points on 30% FG with 17 turnovers, I thought our guys, by and large, did a pretty good job on defense; not that we don't have to try to get better."

The Sun Devils never trailed against the Bulldogs and as they jumped to 14-3 lead at the 14:15 mark it appeared that the maroon and gold were going to halt their three-game losing streak with a laugher. However, ASU's six turnovers and 40.6 percent shooting in the first half never gave them the breathing room one would expect after witnessing the commanding lead ASU took early in the contest.

Rihards Kuksiks converted a trio of long range baskets en route to 11 points in the first period and along with Kyle Cain's eight points and six rebounds during that stretch gave ASU a 37-25 edge at the half.

In the second stanza ASU wasn't able to pull away during the first ten minutes. Despite some more sharp shooting by Rihards Kuksiks as well as Ty Abbott Gardner-Webb was merely trading baskets keeping the deficit at check, 52-40, mid-way through the half.

Trent Lockett's 8 points in the waning moments of the game along with two three-point baskets off the bench from freshman Chanse Creekmur were part of a 19-8 run to put the game well out of reach and get ASU back to a .500 record.

Abbott led all players with 18 points, 12 of them coming in the second half. Lockett with 16 and Kuksiks with 15 were the only other Sun Devils to score in double figures today. Cain came close to a double-double hauling a game-high 11 rebounds and scoring 8 points. Keala Ling had a team-high four assists off the bench. Brian McNair and Jon Moore each had 11 points to pace the Bulldogs.

ASU controlled the boards 40 to 34 and forced Gardner-Webb into 17 turnovers and scored 19 points off of those miscues. Conversely, the Sun Devils committed 15 turnovers of their own and continued to struggle at the charity stripe shooting 62.5 percent (10 of 16) today.

It may be disappointing, perhaps borderline frustrating that with a week between games ASU could not turn in a better performance against a clearly overmatched opponent. Now with just six days between games the Sun Devils will prepare for their last road non-conference game of the year, Friday at Nevada.

The Wolfpack are currently 1-8 on the season but with the Sun Devils' overall play this season they certainly cannot afford to take any opponent lightly let alone on the road as they play their fifth contest away from Wells Fargo arena.

"We're a day-tight compartment team, and we've just got to get ready for practice on Monday," Sendek stated. "We've got to have another terrific week of practice as finals kind of come to an end here in the next couple of days. We're a team, as much as we possibly can, that has to be consumed with improvement.

"Right now, we've got to do everything we can to be competitive on the road, again, against Nevada. We've had a disproportionate number of games away from home so far, and now we've got another one coming up. Most teams, in our shoes, haven't played this many early games in succession away from their home confines."

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