Despite the Sun Devils upset over the No. 1 Kansas Jayhawks on Saturday night, the game didn't start pretty for ASU.
ASU held Kansas to 43 percent shooting overall in the first half. Other star Kansas players such as Lagerald Vick and Quentin Grimes struggled to make shots in the first half, combining for 5 of 15 shooting.
With that first half performance in mind, ASU head coach Bobby Hurley schemed to get the ball out of Lawson's hands and out of the game for a stretch, forcing other Kansas players to score.
Lawson was put in foul trouble early in the second half, committing two fouls in the first four minutes of the half after picking up one in the first half.
This drove Kansas head coach Bill Self to take Lawson out and save him for the end of the game, leaving the Kansas offense in the hands of Vick, Grimes, Devon Dotson and others. ASU went on to stymie the Kansas offense, forcing three turnovers during the four-minute stretch while Lawson was out.
For the rest of the game, ASU kept to the scouting report: get the ball out of Lawson's hands and close out on shooters.
Vick shot five for sixteen on the night, hitting three three-pointers on eleven attempts. Coming into the game, Vick was fifth in the nation in three-point field goal percentage, averaging a scorching 54 percent. With this knowledge, ASU's guards made sure to force Vick into taking tough shots. Hard closeouts were key to making every shot as tough as possible on Vick.
Dotson, Kansas's third-best scorer, shot the ball only seven times in the game hitting four of his attempts. ASU defenders guarded Dotson tight all game, forcing the ball to other players on the floor.
Grimes shot four for twelve for the game, missing all five of his three-point attempts. Grimes isn't the best shooter, shooting only 33 percent from three so far this season. Him shooting this many shots at all was likely a byproduct of ASU's effort to keep the ball out of Dotson's hands.
Then Lawson came back into the game. While Hurley knew Lawson was going to score more, he made it as tough as possible for Lawson to receive the ball and score.
Hurley made whoever guarded Lawson front him whenever he posted up. This scheme asks the defender to come in front of the offensive player, forcing the ball-handler to either make a risky entry pass over the defender or move the ball. This was primarily the task of senior forward De'Quon Lake and redshirt sophomore forward Romello White.
Additionally, Hurley let defenders roam the weak-side to try to get steals on entry passes to Lawson in the post. Freshman forward Taeshon Cherry did this on multiple occasions, coming up successful once but turning the ball over subsequently after.
The combined pressure of fronting the post and weak-side helped prompt the entire Kansas team to work harder to get Lawson the ball. Lawson only scored four points in the final 10 minuets of the game, shooting the ball only once and making two free throws.
It also drove the entire Kansas team to attempt to score. All Kansas players combined, sans Lawson, shot just 33 percent from the field in the second half. The Sun Devils also forced Kansas into 10 turnovers in the second half.
Offense has been the primary source of success for ASU so far this season, but with multiple adjustments from Hurley the team leaned on its defense during this game, leading the Sun Devil's to execute the winning strategy and beat the Jayhawks 80-76.
Jeffrey Horst is the digital editor-in-chief of The State Press. He previously served as the publication's sports editor and worked at Cronkite News and ArizonaSports.com.