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ASU men's basketball ties single-game blocks record in win over GCU

The Sun Devils have won back-to-back games for the first time in the 2021 season

211209 ASU v GCU

ASU junior forward Jalen Graham drives against Grand Canyon University at Desert Financial Arena on Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021. ASU won 67-62.

The wins that look most beautiful in the stat column are the ones most desired but not frequently obtainable. 

When ASU men's basketball went on stretches of five, six, and even seven consecutive missed shots, the team's performance on the other side of the floor was exponentially more important.

ASU men's basketball (4-6) tied a single-game program record with 13 blocks en route to a 67-62 win over Grand Canyon University on Thursday evening.

ASU jumped out to an early 16-5 lead with 10:44 left in the first half after baskets from four of its first five starters. 

After starting off the game 2-for-16 shooting, GCU scored on its next three shots, erasing the only double-digit lead ASU held throughout the game.

It's crazy that you could win a game shooting 3-for-20 from three against a good team,” said head coach Bobby Hurley. “But overall our blocks were significant. We were able to use our length around the rim to block and alter shots and then to make free throws when we needed to. Those were the differences in the game tonight.”

ASU went 26-for-28 at the free throw line. The team made 12 straight in the second half out of 13 attempts, shooting 92.8% from the line, the highest single-game free throw percentage in the program’s history with a minimum of 25 attempts.

Four Sun Devils finished in double-digits. Sophomore guard DJ Horne and graduate student forward Kimani Lawrence led ASU with 14 points apiece. 

Horne, who made two of ASU's three three-pointers, said he treated this game like an away game because of how loud the Grand Canyon fanbase was.

“Going into the game, we treated it as an away game and I feel like that helped us stay locked in,” he said. "We knew their fans were going to come out – we saw the tweets – so we treated it the same way we did when we went to Oregon and try to repeat that mindset that we had then.”

Graduate student guard Marreon Jackson and sophomore guard Jay Heath shot 2-for-9 and 1-for-7 from the field respectively but combined to go 17-of-18 from the free throw line. Jackson finished with 13 points and Heath finished with 11.

Former ASU guard and current GCU fifth-year player Holland Woods finished with a game-high 20 points on 7-for-18 shooting.

Through ten games and exactly a month of the regular season under its belt, ASU men’s basketball appears to have its identity. Though the team is last in the Pac-12 in points per game, the effort on the defensive end will translate to competitive games.

Four days after scoring just 29 points versus Washington State, the Sun Devils overcame a halftime deficit on the road against Oregon and pulled out an overtime win. 

READ MORE: ASU men's basketball captures first win at Matthew Knight Arena against Oregon

Losses that stockpile so early on in the season can divide a locker room or send a team down a whirlpool of negativity. But after ASU’s second consecutive win, Lawrence says the team is starting to find its groove.

“The locker room is really good now,” he said. “We got our confidence back as a team. Things are starting to click and we’re getting better as a team.”

The Sun Devils look to improve its two-game winning streak when they head east to face Creighton University on Tuesday, Dec. 19 at 6 p.m. MST.

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Sean Lynch

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