Shaquielle McKissic knew he had been slipping in the first several games of the season. The ASU senior forward wasn’t initially comfortable with his new role of coming off the bench but he knew he had to work even harder in practice in order to be a factor on the court again.
That meant staying in the gym before and after practice to put in extra work.
“I know hard work conquers all,” McKissic said. “(The coaches) told me what I did wrong and I basically went in there and got after it. I did a lot more listening than acting.”
After scoring 14 points and grabbing 12 rebounds in ASU’s last game against DePaul on Dec. 6, McKissic responded with another big game scoring 19 points as the Sun Devils (9-2) blasted Grambling 97-55 on Saturday.
McKissic shot 6-of-8 from the field and went perfect on all three of his 3-point attempts. After going through a shooting slump the past several weeks, it was only a matter of time before McKissic rediscovered his touch.
“The only time I could hit a three was on the gun,” McKissic said. “I would come into practice and they would be either long or short and I was just like, ‘Man, this is madness.’”
McKissic’s breakout was just a shining example of what ASU coach Herb Sendek was proud of in his team after the win.
“We have a very unselfish team,” Sendek said. “A team that is really easy to cheer for and enjoyable to coach because we never really have anybody who is conditionally in because of playing time. Guys just show up and keep working hard and root for their teammates.”
ASU senior center Jordan Bachynski sees his teammates buying in.
“I see improvement from everybody on our team,” Bachynski said. “There’s not one guy that hasn’t improved. That just shows how dedicated these guys are and hard work conquers all. If you’re not playing, don’t pout and go to work like what Shaq did.”
The Tigers (0-4) challenged the Sun Devils throughout the first 15 minutes of the first half, tying the game four times and forcing 10 lead changes.
But ASU knew it was much more talented than Grambling. After all, the Tigers haven’t won a game since March 3, 2012. The Sun Devils picked it up and thanks to a hot offense and lockdown defense, they ended the first half on an 18-0 run to go into halftime with a 52-28 lead.
“Coach really got on us and told us that we really need to pick it up on the defensive end,” Bachynski said. “Once we started to pick it up on D, when started to guard the ball and play our defense, that’s when we were able to go on the run.”
Bachynski, the nation’s leader in double-doubles, had 14 points and 14 rebounds. He has recorded a double-double in eight of the Sun Devils’ 10 games.
ASU senior guard Jermaine Marshall added 16 points, shooting 6-of-8 from the field and 3-for-5 from beyond the perimeter. Redshirt sophomore guard Jahii Carson had 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting and dished out six assists.
Eleven of 14 Sun Devils who checked in scored a basket, including senior walk-on guard Jarett Upchurch, who scored his first two buckets of his career in the waning minutes of the game. ASU shot 63.5 percent from the field and held Grambling to 30.6 percent shooting.
The Tigers’ backcourt of junior A’Torrie Shine, freshman Redmond Brown and junior Antwan Scott combined for 41 of Grambling’s 55 points.
ASU’s next game is on Dec. 21 when it hosts Texas Tech. Sendek expects junior transfer forward Brandon Kearney to make his season debut then but hasn’t determined his place in the rotation yet.
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