Sun Devils Open Season with a Rout

Aside from a few marquee matchups that are the exception to the rule, early season college basketball games are reserved for playing inferior teams in order to aid the process of finding oneself as a team. The first search for Arizona State’s identity transpired Friday night in the 86-50 season opening win over the Chicago State Cougars.

The game appeared as though ASU was working through offensive play sets sparingly and that a large portion of ASU’s points were coming courtesy of the Sun Devils simply using their superior athleticism to get to the hoop and score.

“Tonight I would say that we ran a grand total of—one play maybe. And we might have run it twice maybe three times,” Sendek said.

“Our guys were playing basketball.”

Friday’s most athletic guy playing basketball, Shaq McKissic, led the way for ASU with 20 points on the night.

The fifth-year senior capitalized on constantly being left open behind the perimeter, shooting three for five from that distance.

A number of those attempts from beyond the arc were made available because the Sun Devils had numbers after breaking the mild Chicago State press and half-court trap.

The way ASU advanced the ball past half-court was not pretty but the team was able to commonly find the open man and knock down the shot.

At this early point in the season McKissic is one of the few players on this team that spectators know what to expect from on a game to game basis.

Therefore, the baseline drive and dunk in traffic with seven and a half minutes left in the first half did not come as an overwhelming surprise.

On the other hand, transfer guard Gerry Blakes’ 11 points and complimentary athleticism may have turned a few heads.

Blakes and McKissic said their commitment to simply beating their individual defenders on the way to the basket had to do with their on-court mindsets.

“If you’re not aggressive you’re not going to get too many buckets,” McKissic said.

Blakes followed McKissic’s proclamation stating that the coaches told the team that Chicago State’s defense would be spread out and ball movement would allow the Sun Devils to attack the defensive gaps.

Coach Sendek was fine with the lack of strict offensive structure in Friday’s season opener.

“Our guys have a tremendous amount of freedom as long as we honor good concepts and principles--to attack and make plays,” Sendek said.

As for the other players making plays in Friday night’s blowout there was scattered production.

Highly touted transfer Willie Atwood only played five minutes in the first half because of foul trouble but was still able to finish with 11 points.

Atwood exceled when he was able to get to the elbows of the court Friday. Twice he executed spontaneous high-low action by assisting Eric Jacobsen from the free throw line’s elbow.

Atwood, who started the game, received extra minutes late after all the other ASU starters had taken a seat for the night because freshman Connor MacDougall fouled out.

The stat sheet states that MacDougall scored five points to match his five fouls. But the freshman showed muscular presence down low defensively in the moments where Jacobsen was absent. Which partially contributed to the newcomer's five committed fouls.

It was a team effort to acquire the Sun Devils’ first win of the season and ASU’s head coach will be the first to state that fact.

“It’s an unselfish team and it’s a connected team even for early in the year.”

After the contest Sendek was asked if he has had a common goal in the past when he enters season opening games.

“To win it,” Sendek succinctly answered.

That goal was accomplished but there is certainly an abundance of other goals on the docket in this young Sun Devils basketball season.

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