Second half surge propels ASU in home win

If the Sun Devils have been looking into its bedroom mirror in order to decipher what the changing form of its team identity is prior to every game, then Saturday’s game, although a home game, metaphorically ventured outside of the comfort of ASU’s bedroom. ASU defeated Pepperdine 81-74 yet were forced to whether a storm of down pouring field goal efficiency from the Waves.

Pepperdine was simply unconscious from the field in the first half, shooting 14 for 29 for 48 percent, followed by 14 for 27 shooting for 52 percent in the second half.

It was evident that Arizona State Head Coach Sendek believed his team needed a change of pace after halftime. The coach who customarily inserts his starters from the first half into the game for the beginning of the second half deviated from his normal practice.

“It just was a feel for what our team needed,” Sendek said.

The coach went onto say he couldn’t identify any particular reason he got the feeling to deviate from his customary moves other than that he felt it fit the team’s current needs.

The issue to that point in the game was really a lack of team scoring. A characteristic that has been a part of the Sun Devils’ changing identity during the season thus far.

As of late that scoring by committee had come from the lineup that consisted of: Kodi Justice, Bo Barnes, Jon Gilling, Shaq McKissic or Gerry Blakes (the two have been interchangeable) and Eric Jacobsen.

That crew only had a few spurts Saturday.

The core of ASU’s winning lineup against Pepperdine included: Tra Holder, Blakes, Jacobsen and McKissic.

While Barnes and Gilling’s three point shooting is where the key of the former lineup’s success lies, McKissic and Jacobsen were where Saturday afternoon’s points were harvested.

McKissic finished the game with 22 points and 11 rebounds on six for 10 shooting from the field. While his teammate down low, Jacobsen, scored a career high 20 points on six for seven shooting with nine rebounds of his own.

Although those two upperclassmen finished with gaudy statistics, midway through the second half ASU went through a bit of an offensive lull. Jacobsen sat on the bench after a Pepperdine player’s elbow knocked the wind out of him and at to that point McKissic had not yet turned on the offensive aggressor switch.

What helped keep them afloat during that period was Pepperdine’s onslaught of fouls. After only committing six fouls in the first half the Waves fouled the Sun Devils 24 times in the second half of play.

With about 15 minutes remaining in the second half McKissic dribbled his way from above the perimeter through multiple defenders on his way to a right-handed layup. On the next possession the fifth-year senior avoided a block as he flew to the rim for a crowd pleasing dunk.

At that point the Sun Devils were losing to the Waves 38-43. But McKissic’s energy and aggressiveness was about to uplift the rest of his team. And although the team needed his offensive contribution Saturday, McKissic said his points aren’t particularly the key to helping his team win.

“It’s not anything about scoring it’s all about effort,” McKissic said. “When they [the rest of his teammates] see me playing that hard it’s an indication of how hard they need to play every single possession.”

It’s easy to forget McKissic was the third offensive option at best last season as departed Sun Devils Jermaine Marshall and Jahii Carson took care of the bulk of the scoring responsibilities.

As previously highlighted, McKissic had help from junior Jacobsen in the game.

“We’ve been trying real hard to play through Eric,” coach Sendek said after the game. “[And] he’s giving us every reason to do it.”

Saturday afternoon the Pepperdine Waves committed 30 team fouls (compared to its 25 rebounds).

Jacobsen was one of three Sun Devils who benefited from Pepperdine’s abundance of fouls by shooting double digit free throws.

Jacobsen was eight for 10 from the free throw line while McKissic was nine for 14. The third member of Saturday’s double digit free throw attempt club was the freshman Holder.

The point guard nearly scored all of his 15 points in the game at the free throw line, shooting 11 for 16 from that location.

Many of those shots came down the stretch as Pepperdine attempted to comeback by fouling late.

However, ASU was able to hold the Waves at bay the rest of the afternoon by keeping the score differential at a respectable distance once the Sun Devils gained the lead in the second half.

McKissic said some of the fire that fueled his urgency in this matchup was the refusal of letting his team lose another close game.

Next on McKissic’s and his team’s docket is a road game against the Marquette Golden Eagles. A game that will likely play host to ASU players having to refuse losing “another close game.”

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