Devils edge Cougars

The Sun Devils were able to shrug off Thursday's disappointing home loss to Washington by notching a victory over Washington State on Saturday. Despite leading throughout most the game, the Sun Devils still had stave off a late rally by the Cougars before holding on for a 71-67 win at Wells Fargo Arena.

Playing with junior wingman Trent Lockett yet again, the Sun Devils turned in one of their more complete team efforts of the season. A sound offensive game plan and efficient execution, keyed by point guard Chris Colvin, helped pave the way for ASU.

"I thought the key for us was our movement of the ball," said head coach Herb Sendek after the game. "I thought we shared the ball and played together and made each other better throughout the game, especially some terrific possessions in the first half."

"If you said at the halfway point of the Pac 12 season what is the single most improved area for this basketball team, I would have to say our ball movement, our passing and our ability to play together," he added. "We were a team that suffered from an awful lot of dribbling and ball-sticking, and I thought today it was just fun to watch."

Colvin, the team's only active scholarship point guard, turned in his best performance of the season and sparked the offense with 16 points, 4 assists and 6 rebounds while playing the full forty minutes.

"Just confidence," said Colvin afterwards on the why things seemed to go his way this afternoon. "Coach had confidence in me, then Trent went down and I knew I had to step up. It was either step up or move on, and I chose to step up. My team gave me confidence to do it and I just came out and did what I needed to do."

"With the opportunity that he's had, he has become more comfortable and he's playing better," expounded Sendek on the improved play of Colvin. "I think all of us bring to this moment, the sum total of all of our experiences. So that tough love has been part of the trail. So we bring the good, the bad and the ugly to the present, and to the extent that we can learn from our experiences and keep working hard, and I think Chris has done that."

Colvin's confidence was in full force as he orchestrated a fluid Sun Devil offense on Saturday. For the game, Arizona State shot 54% while committing fewer turnovers than their opponent for the first time this year. Not only was Colvin able to get his teammates involved, he also kept the Cougar defense honest by knocking down three 3-point attempts while being assertive.

"I looked a lot more for it today," said Colvin of his shot selection and tenacity on offense. "But one thing that we were doing was passing the ball and making open passes and getting open shots. That was one thing that coached stressed to us in practice and we wanted to carry into the game and it paid dividends for us"

The spacing on the floor and crisp passing by the Sun Devils led to 18 assists for the team, creating a balanced attack, something Sendek says the coaching staff has been encouraging them all season to strive for. Jonathan Gilling, coming off a career-high 20 points on Thursday added a new career-high for the Sun Devils in assists with seven, to go along with his 10 points.

"I think our guys are just starting to understand better," he said. "They're starting to get more comfortable with what we're doing. That, and the 2x4 we just keep hitting them over the head with."

Helping carry the offensive load was Carrick Felix, who chipped in with a team-high 20 points, five rebounds and a career-high four assists. After a recent up and down stretch for the wingman, Felix attacked the Cougars early and often, pacing the Sun Devils.

"I definitely have to thank my teammates for getting me open and getting me good looks," said Felix. "I've got myself in the right frame of mind right now. All we're doing is executing; playing slow and taking what the defense gives us. Chris is a big part of that, setting up the offense. He's doing a great job at it."

Jordan Bachynski turned in another solid outing as well for the Sun Devils as the starting center, setting a new career-high with 11 points on 5-5 shooting before fouling out late in the contest. Along with his offensive production, Bachynski added two rebounds and two blocks, adding to his case for more playing time.

"Jordan started because he earned it," remarked Sendek. "We're always evaluating in practice and in games which situations give us the best chance and the right match-ups, and the way Jordan played against Utah, Washington and Washington State, he's really coming on. And that's why he started. We'll see what happens moving forward."

The win gives Arizona State their seventh overall for the season and their third in conference play, snapping a three game losing streak. More importantly though, it provides a team that has fought through incredible adversity all season a reason to smile and reflect on their progress.

"This is why you coach," commented Sendek. "This has been challenging, exhilarating and a lot of fun. Let's face it, this group has been through a great deal and their perseverence can serve as a great example to all of us. They're a fun group to be with."

"We keep telling them the truth; it's not all rose pedals," he added. "We hit them right between the eyes with things we've got to do better and try to hold ourselves accountable. So it's gratifying on a day like today, when they finally get some taste of reward for all of their efforts and perseverence."

The Sun Devils, who have been without Jahii Carson all season and saw starter Keala King sent away recently, look forward to welcoming back Lockett this week. A road trip to the Bay area is a daunting task for any team, but with Lockett back in the fold, it would add some more confidence to the Sun Devil lineup.

"We're at a good point right now, I feel like," said Felix. "Without Trent right now it's hard, but Trent's a leader and plays hard, and when he jumps back in it's going to actually get better. We're excited to get him back, hopefully for next week, and just get on the road and get two wins."

"We've been through hell and back," he continued. "We're all together now and we all believe. We can only go forward now. We battle every day in practice and we work hard. I believe everything happens for a reason and I think it's going to pay off in the end. We've just got to keep working, keep grinding and keep believing."

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