The state of Arkansas likely isn’t a big fan of the ASU men’s basketball team.
The Sun Devils (5-1) defeated Arkansas-Pine Bluff 67-54 Wednesday at Wells Fargo Arena. As ugly of a performance the Sun Devils had against the Golden Lions (1-5), they’re now 3-0 against schools from Arkansas with wins over Central Arkansas and Arkansas.
ASU didn’t have this game in control until midway through the second half, as it was down 39-37 after the Golden Lions’ senior guard Lazabian Jackson drilled a three-pointer with 13:59 left.
The Sun Devils responded with a 17-0 run sparked by a three-pointer from junior guard Evan Gordon. He was 5-for-27 from beyond the arc before the game and went 0-for-3 before that shot. Gordon finished the game with six points, on 2-for-7 shooting and five rebounds.
“I think Evan Gordon really stepped up in the second half,” senior wing Carrick Felix said. “He made some good penetrating kicks and made a couple threes to get himself going.”
Felix scored eight of the team’s 17 points during the run. He finished with a game-high 21 points on 8-for-12 shooting. Felix was the only consistent offensive weapon for the Sun Devils in what was a lackluster first half. He went 4-for-7 in the first half with 12 points. The rest of the team scored 13 points on 3-16 shooting as ASU was down 27-25 at halftime.
“We came out of the gates kind of slow,” Felix said. “Our warm-ups are our energy. I don’t think our energy level was there.”
The Sun Devils settled for three-point shots against Arkansas-Pine Bluff’s mixture of 3-2 and 2-3 zones. Twenty-four of their 47 shots were from the three-point range.
ASU didn’t work the post despite another mismatch with junior center Jordan Bachynski. The Golden Lions started four guards and used 6-foot-8 junior forward Davon Haynes to defend Bachynski. He finished with 10 points, on 3-of-6 shooting, five rebounds and six blocks.
“I was very disappointed with the way we played,” coach Herb Sendek said. “And that doesn’t take anything away from our opponent. We respect everybody and they did a lot of good things, but as the coach of Arizona State I can only speak to our team and what we can control. As far as that goes, I expect better from our men.”
Arkansas-Pine Bluff controlled the pace throughout the game, opting to play at a slower tempo to counter Sendek’s up-tempo offense. The Golden Lions managed to edge the Sun Devils on the glass, 38-37.
ASU also turned the ball over 18 times. Redshirt freshman point guard Jahii Carson had a game-high seven turnovers to go with nine points, five rebounds and eight assists.
“It’s hard to score when you’re having 18 turnovers,” Sendek said.
The Golden Lions scored 19 points off turnovers. They had just 13 turnovers but shot 30 percent from the field. Jackson had a team-high 20 points and junior forward Mitchell Anderson contributed 12 points and six rebounds for Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
“I didn’t think our concentration wasn’t where it needed to be,” Sendek said. “I thought their penetration hurt us. All in all, not to be overly dramatic or too much of a sourpuss, but I think we can play better than we did tonight.”
The Sun Devils will face Sacramento State on Saturday, as they look to go 6-1 this season. The Hornets (5-1) have already stung a Pac-12 squad this season. They defeated Utah on the road 74-71 on Nov. 16. Sophomore guard Dylan Garrity had a team-high 19 points and five assists in the game for Sacramento State.
“Hopefully we’ll learn from it and move on,” Sendek said. “We have a very challenging game on Saturday, and a team that’s really capable and dangerous … We’re going to have to be much better on Saturday night.”
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