ASU coach Herb Sendek reminds his players that any team can fall in college basketball.
On a night when Wyoming upset No.19 Colorado, the Sun Devils (6-1) took care of business against Sacramento State 90-70 Saturday.
The Sun Devils erupted for 46 points in the first half, tied for the seventh-most in the first half under Sendek. Junior guard Evan Gordon made ASU’s first bucket, a three-pointer in the corner, and had the hot hand throughout the game. He scored a game-high 29 points and five assists. Gordon was 5-of-9 from 3-point range, breaking out of a 7-of-34 slump before the game.
“It’s a good feeling (after) having a couple rough starts,” Gordon said. “I just tried to stay with it. I hit the first shot, and it just went on from there.”
Gordon said all of the pressure was removed after he made his first shot. He scored 14 points in the first half, four of which came at the free-throw line due to technical fouls. Hornets (5-2) coach Brian Katz was ejected with 3:59 left in the first half following consecutive technical fouls during the media timeout. Katz was upset with the foul called on sophomore guard Dylan Garrity.
Following Gordon’s four free throws, redshirt freshman Jahii Carson drew a foul on junior forward Joey Quigley. The Sun Devils scored six points on the possession and extended their lead to 43-26. The Hornets committed 18 personal fouls in the first half. Garrity and sophomore guard Mikh McKinney had three fouls at halftime.
“The tide really turned in the first half when we got their starting backcourt, both young men picked up their third foul,” Sendek said. “And that, I thought, helped changed the game in our favor.”
The Hornets made a run in the second half, cutting their 16-point deficit down to 10. Junior guard Jackson Carbajal drilled a 3-pointer to make it 60-50 with 13:29 left in the game. The Sun Devils responded with a 12-2 run, which Gordon had three points, two assists and a steal in the stretch.
“I just thought offensively, for the most part, we were in good rhythm,” Sendek said. “Tonight, we shared the ball. We moved the ball and we made shots. Sometimes, it’s as simple as that. When the ball is going in the basket, everything seems better.”
The Sun Devils struggled against Arkansas-Pine Bluff’s 3-2 and 2-3 defenses. Gordon said the team implemented some new elements into its offense to counter Sacramento State’s zone defense. The Sun Devils shot 48.4 percent in the game and collected 21 assists on 31 field goals.
Along with Gordon’s breakout game, senior wing Carrick Felix continued his impressive season Saturday. He had 21 points on 9-of-13 shooting and 12 rebounds in the game.
“He’s always on the offensive glass and defensive glass with him being so athletic,” Sendek said. “He’s able to get everything. Carrick has been a glue guy for us. When we need scoring, he’s there, and leadership — he’s been stepping up.”
He was part of a small lineup the Sun Devils used to counter the Hornets’ five-guard lineup. Sendek used Felix, sophomore forward Jonathan Gilling and freshman forward Eric Jacobsen in the frontcourt. Jacobsen posted six points and nine rebounds.
“Eric Jacobsen did a good job of running out and covering the floor,” Sendek said. “For a young, big guy, he really moves his feet well. He has an extremely high basketball IQ.”
The Hornets shot 40 percent in the game, mainly due to a 40-point second half. They had four players in double figures, led by senior forward John Dickson with 12 points. Sendek also constantly reminded ASU of the Hornets’ upset win on the road against Utah on Nov. 16. He wanted to key in on the Hornets’ 3-point shooters, which they shot 7-for-22 from behind the arc.
“It seemed like even though we were scoring, we were having a hard time getting any gap, because our defense wasn’t where it needed to be,” Sendek said. “We got beat off the dribble. We got too spread out. To their credit, they’re a good shooting team and they made us pay.”
The Sun Devils have a few days to clean up their issues defensively before Wednesday’s matchup against Hartford at Wells Fargo Arena. Tipoff is at 6:30 p.m. on Pac-12 Network.
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