ASU men's basketball freshman guard Josh Christopher dazzled with a 28-point performance on Thursday night at Mohegan Sun Arena, but the No. 18 Sun Devils lost to No. 3 Villanova 83-74.
A night after scoring 94 points against Rhode Island, ASU’s offense left a lot to be desired in the Empire Classic Championship in Connecticut.
The Sun Devils' off-ball movement and passing on offense was minimal as they had just one assist at halftime and eight all game.
The poor ball movement led to difficult shots for ASU, except for Christopher and senior guard Alonzo Verge Jr.
Senior point guard Remy Martin was held to five points a night after scoring 26 against Rhode Island. Martin saw many different Villanova defenders throughout the night, some creating size disadvantages, which resulted in him taking several low-percentage shots.
Villanova’s defense showed its prowess all night, collecting six steals and forcing ASU to shoot just 43.3% from the field.
Despite the loss, it didn't all go wrong for ASU on the night. The Sun Devils' offense looked more in sync in the second half, shooting 45.2% in the period compared to 41.4% in the first, and assisting on more shots.
Christopher, a former five-star recruit, looked as good as advertised. He heated up early with 12 points on seven first-half shots before finishing the game even stronger with 16 points on 10 shots in the second half. He showed the ability to score off of the dribble through pull-ups and drives while also making three of five three-point attempts.
Verge Jr. contributed to ASU's trend of shooting without making a pass while in possession of the ball, but the senior still found ways to score and get to the free-throw line. He finished with 22 points.
On the other end, Villanova caught fire in the second half, hitting seven of 13 threes in the period. Sophomore forward Jeremiah Robinson-Earl bullied the Sun Devils on all three levels: inside, mid-range and from deep. He finished with 28 points and had a game-high +14 plus/minus.
The Wildcats also dominated the boards, out-rebounding ASU 43-27 and 11-4 on the offensive glass.
The Sun Devils leave Mohegan Sun 1-1 and will face Houston Baptist next in their home opener on Nov. 29 at 2:00 pm MST.