ASU men’s basketball thoroughly defeated Houston Baptist 100-77 in a team-oriented victory Sunday afternoon in its home opener.
After the Sun Devils (2-1) finished with just eight assists in a loss to Villanova on Thursday, head coach Bobby Hurley said the team needed to spread the ball around better on offense and connect on their “fairly open” shots.
In Sunday’s game, Hurley’s team completed both of those goals and more, as ASU finished the first half with 17 assists and a 34-point lead, highlighted by a 31-3 run.
The large number of assists led to three players scoring over double figures in the first half. Freshman forward Marcus Bagley led all players with 13 first-half points, preseason All-American senior point guard Remy Martin pitched in 12 points and four assists and sophomore guard Jaelen House scored 11 first-half points while shooting perfect from the field and the free-throw line.
After not seeing the floor versus Villanova, House had a good practice, according to Hurley, and it carried over in his performance against the Huskies.
“It happens, sometimes you don’t play,” House said. “I just got to be ready whenever my number is called, and that’s what happened tonight.”
The Sun Devil defense also stepped up big in the first half as their full-court pressure forced 14 turnovers and held the Huskies to a cold 37.9% field goal percentage.
Hurley was impressed with his team’s first-half showing, but according to the coach, the team’s mood “wasn’t fantastic” after the game due to a poor second-half performance.
“I thought it was a pretty solid, dominant effort for 24 minutes. We really had complete control of the game,” Hurley said. “I wasn’t pleased with how we finished the game, but again, the majority of those minutes were without any of our true rotation players.”
To start off the second half, the Sun Devils looked like they were going to continue to expand on their near-perfect first half, opening the second period on a 11-0 run. But, once the core rotation players came off the floor, so did ASU’s tenacious defense and hot shooting.
Over the last 12 minutes of the game, the Sun Devils were outscored 32-15.
In limited second-half minutes, Bagley, Martin and House finished with 21, 16 and 13 points apiece. Freshman guard Josh Christopher also had no trouble scoring the ball, finishing the game with 17 points.
“I’m kicking myself a little bit, to be honest. I think I jumped the gun about three minutes too soon on getting our core rotation guys out of the game. I maybe should’ve let that develop a little more,” Hurley said. “A majority of the game we were dominant, and then we were awful the last 12 minutes.”
One bright spot for ASU in the second half was the return of senior forward Kimani Lawrence. After missing the first two games due to a knee injury, Lawrence tallied 13 points, three rebounds and two steals in his first game of the season.
With the start of Pac-12 play coming up, Lawrence said he tried to “stay disciplined, play within the flow of the offense and do things that will translate to better teams.”
ASU is set to play its first Pac-12 opponent versus Cal in Berkeley, California on Dec. 3 at 8 p.m. MST.