No. 5 ASU men's basketball overcomes early offensive woes to beat Vanderbilt 76-64

The Sun Devils improved to 10-0, marking the program’s best start in school history.

No. 5 ASU got off to a slow start but used defense and a typical performance from senior point guard Tra Holder to help beat Vanderbilt (3-7), 76-64. The Sun Devils remain one of four undefeated teams in college basketball as of Sunday afternoon. 

Holder finished the game with 25 points, making all 11 of his free throws while adding two steals. Sophomore Forward Mickey Mitchell helped ASU’s front court with eight points and 13 rebounds in just his second game of the year. His game was especially useful after forward Romello White fouled out early in the second half.

Mitchell credited more reps for his performance and expects to get more into rhythm with time.

“I think getting up and down more,” Mitchell said. “Getting a chance to, you know, get that feel for the game because I have been out for so long. So just getting out there and running again.”

ASU struggled to get going in the first half, not making its first basket until White scored off a layup over five minutes into the game. 

“I think we were just a little rusty,” Holder said. “We had a long week off, hard practices, but we got back into our groove and Mickey and Remy [Martin] gave us a good spark and got things going.”

Junior Vanderbilt guard Joe Toye nailed two jumpers from beyond the arc and a layup over a three minute span to help give the Commodores a 13-0 lead in the first five minutes of the game. They forced nine turnovers in the first 10 minutes of the game and held ASU to 17 percent shooting until the 9:38 mark. 

The Sun Devils battled back, however, anchored by a 9-0 run with four minutes to go in the first half to come within one of the Commodores. 

Senior guard Shannon Evans II  knocked down an open three to cut their deficit by three.

“I don't really think we panicked in the beginning even though we were down 13-0,” Holder said. “We felt that we were getting right open shots, great looks, layups, stuff like that. So we stuck with it and coach kept preaching to keep going at it.”

The Commodores kept their foot on the gas pedal, answering with an and-1 layup from sophomore guard Payton Willis to break the momentum shift. 

Although he struggled early in the first half, Holder capped off a poor start with a buzzer-beating three to end the half and gave ASU its first lead of the game, 30-29. 

The script flipped at the beginning of the second half, as ASU used a 12-0 run to extend its lead to 46-31 with 16 minutes left in the half. Senior forward Kodi Justice knocked down a three to get the crowd on its feet, then White followed with a block and a dunk that further riled up the fans.

Vanderbilt couldn't f find an answer, and the Commodores were outscored 46-35 in the second half and failed to find their rhythm offensively. 

ASU head coach Bobby Hurley said he hopes fans continue to fill up the arena since it gave his players a momentum boost.

Vanderbilt shot 6.3 percent from beyond the arc in the second half, 13.3 the entire game. Their leading scorer, senior forward Jeff Roberson (14.1ppg) was held to seven points on 1-for-7 shooting. 

“Vanderbilt has quality players," Hurley said. "To be able to defensively guard the three point line and hold them to those numbers, I think you’ll see our defensive stats jumping up. Maybe people recognize that we are not one-dimensional; if we don’t have our full firepower on offense on a particular day that we can push through a game like tonight." 

Up Next

No. 5 ASU vs. Longwood (3-8)

Tuesday, Dec. 19 at 7 p.m. MT

Reach the reporter at or follow @felipecorraljr on Twitter.  

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