Shaquielle McKissic's double-double powers ASU men's basketball past Pepperdine

Senior forward Shaquille McKissic dunks the ball in a game against Pepperdine, Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014 at Wells Fargo Arena in Tempe. After trailing the entire first half, the Sun Devils came from behind and defeated the Waves 81-74. (Photo by Ben Moffat) Senior forward Shaquielle McKissic dunks the ball in a game against Pepperdine, Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014 at Wells Fargo Arena in Tempe. After trailing the entire first half, the Sun Devils came from behind and defeated the Waves 81-74. (Photo by Ben Moffat)

The ASU men's basketball team has had one offensive constant in its first eight games this season: three point shooting.

This time, though, it had to settle for the next best thing: a dominant performance from junior center Eric Jacobsen in the post — a career-high 20 points on nine rebounds — to provide a much-needed inside presence in the absence of long-range shooting, as ASU topped Pepperdine 81-74 Saturday afternoon.

Another familiar face in senior forward Shaquille McKissic was active in the opening minute, draining the first ASU basket of the afternoon. As has been typical of his offensive performance for the majority of this season, he regressed and didn't account for much of the scoring in the first half.

Coach Herb Sendek said McKissic was "extraordinary determined to not let us lose."

"It's frustrating to see how laid back I was," McKissic said of his performance in the first eight game this year. "If I'm going to go down, I'm going to go down being aggressive. I'm willing to make that extra effort."

The Waves (5-2) presented a formidable challenge for the Sun Devils (6-3) with a lineup similar in size to ASU's, active hands on defense (eight steals) and a player who could go toe-to-toe with Jacobsen on the low block in 6-foot-6 junior forward Stacy Davis.

McKissic said playing alongside Jacobsen fueled his aggression, which he channeled into 22 points and 11 rebounds.

"He works hard, he gets me going," McKissic said. "When you see somebody willing to die on the court, you want to give all of that too."

Sendek said Jacobsen's play was at an "all-conference level," citing his discipline on defense and fewer fouls over the course of a game.

"(Freshman point guard Tra Holder) did a great job getting me the ball," Jacobsen said. "(My teammates) all look for me."

Freshman guard Tra Holder goes up for a layup in a game against Pepperdine, Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014 at Wells Fargo Arena in Tempe. After trailing the entire first half, the Sun Devils came from behind and defeated the Waves 81-74. (Photo by Ben Moffat) Freshman guard Tra Holder goes up for a layup in a game against Pepperdine, Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014 at Wells Fargo Arena in Tempe. After trailing the entire first half, the Sun Devils came from behind and defeated the Waves 81-74. (Photo by Ben Moffat)

This formula was the key to ASU's struggles in the first half, which allowed the Waves to take a 31-29 lead into the locker room at halftime.

The Sun Devils missed their six shots from behind the arc in the first half, and only made three in the second. ASU shot a season-low 23 percent from three-point range.

Part of the struggle, Sendek said, was the inability to convert on open shots from point blank range, or blown layups that he referred to as a "psychological speedbump."

But the first made three-pointer of the afternoon, drained by junior Gerry Blakes with 11:49 to go, gave ASU a 45-43 from which it would never look back, igniting a 15-0 run.

Blakes added 16 points on four rebounds, hitting all four of his free throw attempts.

McKissic also helped extend the run with a pair of ferocious uncontested dunks to ignite the crowd.

"When (McKissic) starts settling for jump shots, he gets away from who he is at the core," Sendek said. "We tell him to stay in his lane and emphasize that he should play to his strengths."

Ultimately, when the switch was flipped on McKissic's game, Sendek said that the "vibe" he got from McKissic was that he was "not going to allow us to lose."

Looking ahead, sophomore forward Savon Goodman will be available to play when the Sun Devils face the Marquette Golden Eagles (4-4) on Tuesday, Dec. 16, at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee.

McKissic compared Goodman to Los Angeles Lakers forward Carlos Boozer, and Sendek said Goodman will be a compliment to the rotation and provide much-needed size and depth to the front court.

"He's an excellent defender, and has the ability to rebound," Sendek said. "He's so ready (to return) he can't stand it."

Reach the outgoing assistant sports editor at smodrich@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter @StefanJModrich

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