That change in scheme, along with timely three pointers by the Bears' Tweety Carter ignited a 22-7 run to put the visitors up 52-47 with 5:27 left in the contest. The Bears withstood a strong effort by the Sun Devils and hung on to their precious lead en route to victory.
"I thought they did a good job guarding us in their man-to-man," said Head Coach Herb Sendek. "Their length and their size were different. Having said that we probably had enough open shots, if we convert a higher percentage, to still win the game, provided we had done a better job on the defensive end.
"The X-factor obviously was Carter. 7 out of 9 from three. The one at the end of the shot clock, when we are draped over him, stands out. He was the difference in the game."
ASU had a 33-24 advantage at the half, but was outscored in the second half 40-28.
It wasn't just Carter's sharp deep shooting that hampered the maroon and gold in the last twenty minutes. Baylor scored 16 points in the paint, and overall converted at a 64 percent clip. ASU on the other hand was just 38.5 percent overall from the field.
"I don't know that it was a function of effort," Sendek said of his teams' defense in the second half. "I think our guys were battling. Their size upfront was challenging for us. Those two guards are really good players, we got spread out a couple of times and just didn't have a lot recovery time for their shooters."
On offense ASU had just eight points in the paint, with center Eric Boateng being held scoreless in the second stanza.
"We took a lot of threes," Sendek acknowledged. "But to be honest with you, that's what the game demanded. They averaged over six blocked shots a game (had just two on Thursday night) and when you drive to the basket they are sending two or three guys there."
The Sun Devils were able to hold their own on the boards in the first half, trailing just 12-11. Yet like other aspects of their game on Thursday, it went south in the second half, as the hosts collected just seven more caroms in that period and eventually lost the rebound battle 30-18.
"Even if we block out," Sendek stated, "rebounding against Baylor was going to be difficult. They missed 17 shots and they got seven back. Once again, I don't think our guys were unaware or given poor effort on the glass. I think we met a hell of a rebounding team tonight that we tried to battle with on the glass."
Rihards Kuksiks paced the Devils with 16 points, and scored 11 straight points which tied the game at 58-58 with 1:16 left, but that's as close as ASU would come to achieving victory. It was however a tough night for the junior who scored just three points in the first half and ended the game just 4-13 from three-point range.
"I just reminded him to stay with his shot," Sendek said of the instructions he gave the forward at halftime. "I thought he was releasing and falling away a little bit. We were still looking for him; we still tried to run some stuff for him. Rik is such a good shooter you always think the next one is going in."
Jerren Shipp scored 12 points, and in the first half was a perfect 3-3 from beyond the arc. "He made some big shots or us," Sendek pointed out, "and really scrapped and battled. His first half allowed us to have the lead at intermission.
Carter scored 27 for the Bears.
Up next for ASU is their first true road game of the season and a match up that could prove to be just as tough as the one they just faced, if not tougher, a visit to BYU on Tuesday night. Tip-off is set for 8 pm.