Before the start of the season, the ASU men’s basketball team advertised itself as a unit filled with scorers that could put points up with a high-tempo offense.
After ASU’s first four Pac-12 games — most recently an 87-72 blowout loss to now-No. 25 UCLA on Sunday, it seems like scoring could be a tougher task than first perceived this season.
Through the first four conference games, ASU is averaging 70.5 points per game, which puts the Sun Devils eighth in the Pac-12 since conference play began. ASU stands ninth in field-goal percentage shooting 42.5 percent and 10th in assists with 10.25 per game.
The team’s offense struggles weren’t that evident when it shot 46.4 percent en route to a 79-60 win at USC on Jan. 9, but its low shooting percentage was exposed in the Sun Devils’ loss at UCLA when they shot 42.9 percent.
It doesn’t help that redshirt sophomore point guard Jahii Carson has been struggling, either.
In his four Pac-12 games, Carson has averaged 14 points and 3.5 rebounds with a 0.53 assist-to-turnover ratio. He shot 19-of-55 (34.5 percent) in that stretch and went 0-for-5 from the 3-point line against UCLA.
Give credit to ASU’s opponents, though. They’ve been cutting off driving lanes and contesting shooters, forcing the Sun Devils to take tough shots and rely on one-on-one play to score points.
Getting more fluidity on offense will likely be a point of emphasis in practice this week, but it’s not going to come easy in the team’s next game against No. 1 UA. The Wildcats are atop of the conference in scoring defense in Pac-12 play, giving up only 53.8 points per game.
The Brandon Kearney Project continues
As the Sun Devils have been on a search for consistency, coach Herb Sendek has been giving junior forward Brandan Kearney a lot of playing time since he became eligible to play against Texas Tech on Dec. 21.
Kearney, who transferred from Michigan State, is clearly still learning and trying to find a set role. He’s listed as a forward, but he’s even been getting minutes at backup point guard. Neither redshirt freshman Calaen Robinson nor freshman Chance Murray, who both usually back up Carson, saw minutes in any of the two games in LA.
Here’s Kearney’s minutes log in his first six games — four minutes against Texas Tech, seven minutes against UC Irvine, 11 against Washington, six against Washington State, seven at USC and 21 at UCLA.
Kearney’s physicality and his 3-point shooting could be valuable to the Sun Devils once he develops. Until then, he’s a work in progress that Sendek will continue to develop by allowing him to play.
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