Against Utah, it was the definition of winning ugly but the Colorado was a different story as the Sun Devils were down 13 early in the first half only to claw back and take a lead they would not relinquish late in the game. It was a game that ASU simply would not have won in the previous two seasons and to pull off the mild upset when Jahii Carson would only post five points and three assists really told the story of an impressive victory that would cap off a special weekend for Arizona State basketball.
This weekend is big for the Sun Devils as they will need to keep piling up wins in order to sweeten the NCAA Tournament resume. A lot of love is going around the national media as a lot of college hoops experts have noticed what's brewing in Tempe but the only way those rumblings turn into actual conversations will be if the team keeps winning.
With no notable non-conference win to speak of (Arkansas is 9-4 with zero good wins), the Sun Devils can't just be decent in Pac-12 play and expect the Tournament committee slap them on the back for being a big name. Sweeping the first two games is a great sign and beating Colorado certainly caught people off guard but there is much more work to be done and this weekend on the road will be a great test.
Craig Robinson – 5th season at OSU – 71-74; 101-102 career
Herb Sendek – 7th season at ASU – 111-97; 365-265 career
G – Ahmad Starks (13.0 PPG, 45% 3PT) vs. Jahii Carson (16.7 PPG, 5.1 APG)
G – Roberto Nelson (16.0 PPG, 46% 3PT) vs. Evan Gordon (9.9 PPG, 34% 3PT)
G/F – Devon Collier (14.5 PPG, 6.1 RPG) vs. Carrick Felix (15.1 PPG, 7.9 RPG)
F – Joe Burton (11.1 RPG, 6.1 RPG) vs. Jon Gilling (9.6 PPG, 7.1 RPG)
Why Oregon State Can Win:
This team has a lot of versatile pieces but three things really stand out for the Beavers they are incredibly balanced, they can shoot the lights out from three-point land and they have great rebounders. Balance: all five starters average double-digit scoring. Three-Point shooting: As a team, OSU shoots 40% from deep led by Roberto Nelson (46%) and Ahmad Starks (45%). Rebounding: Collier, Burton and Moreland all average over six rebounds per game while Moreland pulls down 11.1 per contest.
If the Beavers can dictate the tempo in this matchup, they will give ASU a hard time in the paint against a much smaller lineup.
Why ASU Can Win:
Fundamentals are key whether it be limiting turnovers, getting to the free throw line or rebounding the basketball. When playing on the road, making too many mistakes will haunt you every time.
In the past nine games, the Sun Devils have turned it over just 11.3 times per game after turning it over 15.3 times per game in their first six contests. The Sun Devils averaged just 13 free throw attempts per game in the five games leading up the Colorado matchup but were able to get to the line 33 times in the upset win. The +14 margin from the free throw line for the Sun Devils was pretty significant considering the final score was 65-56.
As long as Herb Sendek is running the show, rebounding will never be the best thing ASU does but if they can stay afloat against opponents and limit second-chance opportunities – ASU will run and score. A lot. Another thing to keep an eye on is the lack of depth OSU has – if the Sun Devils can push the tempo and get the Beavers into foul trouble, it could doom the Beavers.
ASU is third in the nation with eight blocks per game. That is one block for every 7.7 opponent attempt. Jordan Bachynski leads the Pac-12 with 4.6 blocks per game while Carrick Felix swats 1.5 shots on average.
The other starters; what is interesting about this ASU team is that it is truly becoming a three-headed monster. Jahii, Felix and Bachynski are all-league talents that can really impact the game in a variety of ways.
Whether it is Carson's playmaking abilities, Felix hustling all over the court or Bachynski altering every shot that comes near him – this troika can help these Sun Devils win a lot of games if they stay healthy and stay consistent.
That being said, there are two guys that need to appear from behind the shadows and start doing their part: Evan Gordon and Jon Gilling have to produce on offense. Gilling put 12 points up against Colorado but was just 1-6 from deep and gave the Buffaloes more opportunity to stifle Carson.
Gordon was a complete non-factor and is in danger of losing his spot to Chris Colvin. While Colvin has been a real breath of fresh air this season, his shooting deficiencies are problematic in late-game situations when free throws are needed. Gordon can be everything Colvin has been and more but his consistency has not been there. That needs to change for this team to win more games like it did last weekend.
Final Score: Arizona State 71 Oregon State 65