The matchup zone defense has become a trademark of the ASU men’s basketball team.
That defense has already passed tests this season, but another one awaits in the form of the high-powered offense of Baylor.
The Bears’ offense is a three-headed attack led by star junior guard LaceDarius Dunn, who is averaging 20.9 points per game. Dunn, last year’s Big 12 Sixth Man of the Year, has elevated his play to the next level this season and is a big-time threat from beyond the arc, connecting on 26 shots from 3-point land this season.
“They like to score,” ASU coach Herb Sendek said during his weekly radio show. “They’re a high-octane offensive team. Our defense is really going to be challenged.”
And this season, BU has added something to its arsenal that it lacked at times last season: an inside threat.
After being named to the Big Ten’s All-Defensive team as a sophomore in 2007-2008, Ekpe Udoh, decided, to the surprise of many, to transfer from Michigan and settle on BU.
In his first year eligible to play for the Bears, Udoh has had an immediate impact. He was named to the All-Tournament team at the Old Spice Classic and was recently named Big 12 Newcomer of the Week.
While known as a defensive-minded player (3.6 blocks per game), Udoh has stepped up his offensive game this season, averaging 15.4 points per game to go along with 9.3 rebounds per game.
Rebounding has been a concern of ASU’s all season long, so Udoh, along with the two other Bears that stand taller than 6-foot-10, will present a major challenge in the paint. The Sun Devils were outrebounded 39-25 by a much smaller Arkansas-Pine Bluff team on Monday.
“[Rebounding] is something we have to clean up, especially if we want to win on Thursday,” ASU junior guard Jamelle McMillan said.
Udoh will be another tough opponent on the inside for senior center Eric Boateng to handle. But McMillan said he sees the confidence that Boateng is gaining as invaluable.
“He has found himself, and he is comfortable and confident in what he is doing,” McMillan said. “As long as we keep getting the ball inside, good things will happen for our perimeter guys, as well as our post guys.”
Boateng said he believes that ASU just needs to get back to basics to become a better rebounding team.
“We have to do a better job of focusing on rebounding and blocking out,” Boateng said. “It is just something that we have to get better doing.”
ASU will benefit on the glass when athletic and talented rebounding freshman guard Trent Lockett gains more experience, but as a true freshman, there will be ups and downs.
“Once he really learns how to play at this level, he is going to be a top quality guy,” McMillan said. “He is very athletic — he gives us the spark.”
The third member of Baylor’s trio is senior point guard Tweety Carter.
After being suspended for BU’s first four games, the former McDonald’s All-American and high school basketball’s all-time leading scorer hit six 3-pointers and scored 27 points in the Bears’ 69-64 win over Xavier on Sunday.