ASU men's basketball falls at home to No. 9 Creighton

Despite surges throughout the game, the Sun Devils were unable to upset the ninth-ranked Bluejays.

As ASU men’s basketball draws closer to the end of non-conference play, head coach Bobby Hurley and his team were tasked with a home contest against No. 9 Creighton (12-0).

Although ASU showed flashes throughout the contest, the upset-minded Sun Devils (6-6) lost, 96-85, to the Bluejays.

Creighton entered the game leading the nation in three-point percentage (44.2), was second in shooting percentage (53.9) and was eighth in points per game (89.3).

The Sun Devils began the game with a hot start, going on a 9-0 run that saw an electric alley-oop from junior guard Shannon Evans and senior forward Obinna Oleka. Junior guard Kodi Justice, who entered the game leading his team in three point percentage at .432, had the game’s first three in those strong opening minutes for ASU.

Just 2:37 into the game, ASU led 11-2.

“I just thought we had the right mindset and the right approach to the game, especially on defense,” Hurley said. “We were generating stops, we were pushing the ball, we were spreading the court.”

Creighton tied game at 20 with 11:38 to go in the first half. The Bluejays soon took their first lead at 23-22, and a 25-22 advantage prompted ASU’s first timeout. Creighton was finding its groove on offense.

Later in the half, with 3:57 to go, junior guard Tra Holder nailed a three that gave ASU a 35-34 lead, their first lead in over 7 minutes.

Holder finished the night with a share of the team lead in points with 24, to go with seven rebounds and five assists.

“It definitely helps to have a lot of people there, and the adrenaline going,” Holder said when asked about the raucous crowd at Wells Fargo Arena. “We hope to see that more often. There were a lot of plays I got motivated and I know my teammates got motivated, just by having people cheering us on.”

Creighton took the lead right back after Holder’s big three, and had a 45-40 lead by the half.

“We never quite clicked on offense to (come back in the second half),” Hurley said. “So, they separated. That was a point where you learn a lot about the character and if (your team is) responding appropriately. The answer was yes. I’ve got a lot of respect for how the team competed.”

The Bluejays opened the second half by going on an 11-6 run to make it 56-46 Creighton, marking their first double-digit lead of the evening.

As the Sun Devils fought to get back in command of the game, senior guard Torian Graham was having a night. He had two flashy dunks – including a 360-slam on a breakaway – as he went on to score 24 points, nab six boards and have two steals.

Oleka joined Holder and Graham by having a strong showing, statistically. He led the Sun Devils with 16 rebounds to go along with 19 points.

But it wasn’t enough. With more than 10 minutes left in the ballgame, Creighton was running away. They led 71-51 with 11:02 to go.

The Bluejays eventually closed out the evening with an 11-point victory, thanks in part to a big night by junior guard Marcus Foster. Foster, formerly of Kansas State, went off for 29 points, four rebounds and three assists in 34 minutes. He was 10-for-18 from the field.

As a team, Creighton was 14-for-25 (56 percent) from three.

“It was tough. They made difficult shots,” said Justice, who himself had one three-pointer in the game. “When a team comes in here and hits 14 threes, it’s hard to come out with a victory. But I felt like with our effort, we were still in there competing.”


Reach the reporter at matthew.layman@asu.edu or follow @Mattjlayman on Twitter.

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