For his second season at Arizona State, Bobby Hurley set course for his team's toughest non-conference schedule in recent ASU history.
Facing formidable non-conference opponents Kentucky, Northern Iowa, UNLV, San Diego State, Purdue and Creighton over the next few weeks, the Sun Devils figured they needed to get a full head of steam against inferior Division I teams.
Lowly Cal Poly, picked to finish last in the Big West Media Poll, was trying to put a monkey wrench in those plans on Sunday.
The game wasn't supposed to be anything but a tune up, but ASU found itself trailing in the second half before powering past the Mustangs for the best offensive half of the Hurley era. Scoring 57 points in the second half, ASU (2-0) beat Cal Poly (0-2) 96-74 in front of a sparse 4,155 crowd at Wells Fargo Arena Sunday night.
"Very pleased with where we are right now after the first weekend," Hurley said. "A lot of new faces, new parts, guys working together. It's been a crazy weekend, outside of our little world here with a lot of upsets which is going to be more of the norm in college basketball with the parody. So for us to have to respond late in the first half, early in the second half, I think is a good thing for us heading to Orlando this week."
ASU will head to Florida on Thursday to play Northern Iowa in the first round of the Tire Pros International after winning its second-straight game after its season opening 88-70 win against Portland State.
"It's great we are having the success we are having and I don't think we are coming close yet to what out potential is to be as busy continue to play better that I think will play better," Hurley said.
After Cal Poly continued to give the Sun Devils trouble on the offensive side of the ball to open the second half, the momentum swung back in ASU’s favor after senior guard Torian Graham slammed home a backboard-shaking dunk and junior guard Kodi Justice nailed a three-pointer with 14:41 left in the second half to give ASU a 53-51 lead.
The sequence of events was the start of a 24-9 ASU run over an eight minute span before the Sun Devils took complete control of the game.
"Just being aggressive and energy," ASU junior guard Shannon Evans said about the difference between ASU's first and second half play. "We had a few times on defense we are just lackadaisical and they were making shots in transition and stuff like that. At halftime we talked about picking the ball up, pressuring."
Four ASU players got in double-digits Sunday night, with junior guard Tra Holder leading the Sun Devils with 24 points on 7-of-12 shooting from the field after a 23-point performance Friday night.
"Tra has been super these first two games," Hurley said. "Outstanding play from him as well as (senior center Obinna Oleka). I thought Obi rebounded great in the first game and backed it up tonight. More efficient on offense and then Torian made some big defensive plays in the second half, ignited some of the stuff we did with the dunk in the lane and the drives and then he had seven defensive rebounds which was huge."
Evans had 20 points on 4-of-10 shooting from the field, Oleka had 17 points and 13 rebounds, while Graham had 18 points on 7-of-12 shooting after a 23-point performance Friday night. It was Oleka fifth career double-double.
"I give them some good credit defensively," Cal Poly head coach Joe Callaro said. "They did a nice job of playing like a Pac-12 team in that second half. I thought we controlled tempo in the first half, we changed our offense, we changed our defense consistently in the first half to keep the game in touch. I think we wore down a little bit mentally and emotional as it continued."
By halftime, ASU was only up by one point, 39-38. Holder led ASU with 13 points on 3-of-6 shooting from the field, 1-of-2 from behind the arc. The Mustangs refused to go away in the first half, going on multiple 6-0 runs comprised of back-to-back three-pointers.
The Mustangs were 15-of-30 from the field, 7-of-17 from behind the three-point arc in the first half, while ASU was 10-of-35 from the field and 3-of-9 from three-point range in the first half .
The Sun Devils only had two assists on 10 made baskets in the first half, which came at the hands of Justice and Graham. ASU ended the game with 12 assists on 28 made shots.
"What has happened in the first two games is teams have flipped and put their five-men on our point guards and while the assist totals aren't what I hoped for or what I anticipated early," Hurley said. "They are fouling us a lot because their five-man can't guard Shannon or Tra so we are getting to the free-throw line quite a bit and those guys are able to go effectively off the dribble."
Cal Poly senior guard Kyle Toth led the Mustangs with 21 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the field. Cal Poly lost its home opener 77-68 to Pepperdine on Friday. Cal Poly junior forwards Josh Martin and Luke Meikle each scored a team-high 17 points in the loss. Martin had 21 rebounds to go along with his 17 points on Friday night.
On Sunday, Martin with second on the team with 17 points on 6-of-10 shooting from the field. Cal Poly is coming off a 10-20 overall record last year, 4-12 in the Big West. In 2014, the Mustangs got into the NCAA tournament, beating No. 16 seed Texas Southern in one of the First Four games before losing to No.1 seed Wichita State in the second round, 64-37.