Defense Helps Devils Throttle Titans
Following Arizona State’s triple overtime loss last weekend to Lehigh, Head Coach Herb Sendek said he felt his team lacked confidence. On Tuesday, that was hardly the case as the Sun Devils took out their frustrations on Detroit with arguably their most impressive performance of the season on both ends of the court. In a not so surprising move, Sendek tweaked his starting line-up, inserting junior college transfers Savon Goodman and Roosevelt Scott into the starting five while moving Gerry Blakes, yet another junior college transfer, to the starting point guard position and the results were immediate for the Sun Devils. ASU (7-5) used an 11-0 run to extend an early three point lead into a 22-8 advantage and never looked back, racing past the Titans for a convincing win. Arizona State shot 15-23 (.652) from the field while forcing 12 Detroit turnovers to jump out to a 50-22 halftime lead, marking the sixth largest number of points the Sun Devils have ever scored in a first half under Sendek. “One thing that I think Gerry, Roosevelt, and Savon give us as newcomers is they increase the competitiveness of our team,” said Sendek after the game. “I think, arguably, it is our best defensive unit. The only caveat I’ll say is, we’ve been here before with this group and then we’ll go back to practice and you’ll say, ‘Well how could you say that’s your best defensive team?’ So that’s where we’ve got to get more consistent. “They can’t just be the best defensive team today. They have to be that way tomorrow.” Savon Goodman, who recorded his first career double-double against Lehigh last Saturday with 24 points and 12 rebounds, scored a game-high 22 points while hauling in a team-high 11 rebounds in the win. The forward was one of three Sun Devils in double figures scoring, as forward Shaquille McKissic scored 14 points while Blakes added 13. “A big part of it is the emergence of Savon,” said Sendek. “This was his third game. The Marquette game was his coming out. We all know he fouled out in seven minutes. He got a little bit better on Saturday night and tonight he played an outstanding game, so having him now in the line-up really helps our team.” Center Eric Jacobsen also contributed nine points and four assists while Scott chipped in nine points to go along with six rebounds. ASU’s 94 points marked the seventh most points a Sun Devil team has scored under Sendek while its 39-point margin of victory over the Titans represents the fourth largest for the coach in Tempe. “We’re certainly not a masterpiece on offense even though we scored a lot of points today,” said Sendek. “I don’t know if this team will ever be that razor-sharp offensive unit putting on a clinic. But what we did to start the game with that group was we had high energy and played good defense that led to transition baskets.” As outstanding as ASU appeared on offense, they were just as impressive on the defensive end against Detroit. The Sun Devils limited the Titans to just 18-60 (.300) shooting overall, including 5-21 (.238) from behind the three point line. Arizona State forced 20 turnovers, converting them into 27 points on Tuesday. “Me, Gerry, Roosevelt, Shaq and Eric had been texting all night about getting five stops in a row,” said Goodman. “That was our big thing coming out today, starting the game with some energy and getting five stops and getting out in transition. That’s what I think helped us open up our early lead.” Entering the game, Detroit had been led offensively by forward Juwan Howard Jr., who came into the day averaging 19.8 points per game. However, the senior struggled against the aggressive and physical post play of Goodman, finishing with just nine points on 4-17 shooting. “I knew I’d have him when I came out,” said Goodman. “My biggest thing was not to focus on nothing but getting into his head and making him have a tough game. He averages, I think, about 19, so you’re not going to stop the guy from scoring but my goal was to irritate him as much as possible have him tired from running up and down the floor.” Tuesday’s matinee also marked the return of former Sun Devil Brandan Kearney who actually led the Titans with 15 points on 5-8 shooting and three rebounds in his return to the desert. Arizona State will conclude its non-conference slate when it takes on Harvard Sunday at 12:00 PM. The Sun Devils will then head to Tucson to begin Pac-12 play on January 4th. “I feel like the mood is more hungry than happy because we have a tough conference to look forward to and if we can correct the small mistakes, like our turnovers and get better at defense and gel more as a team, all the things that’ll make us better, the faster we do it the better we’ll become,” said Blakes. “I feel like we’re just hungry to get better.”
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