ASU sophomore forward Shawn Phillips Jr. started his tenure in Tempe with a towering dunk to put the team on top, but his highlight play was the only one worth celebrating in the Sun Devils' 71-56 season-opening loss to Mississippi State.
ASU’s defeat didn’t come in front of rowdy Bulldogs fans in Starkville, Miss., but in a mostly empty arena in Chicago for the second-ever Barstool Sports Invitational.
The first half was a tale of two teams. Mississippi State knocked down tough shots, dominated the boards and played gritty defense. ASU did the complete opposite, with a stagnant offense and lackluster defensive possessions.
The first few minutes of ASU head coach Bobby Hurley’s new-look team went by quietly. Junior guard Frankie Collins missed a pair of floaters before sophomore transfer guard Kamari Lands scored ASU’s first points of the game. Collins eventually got on the board by pushing into the paint again and finishing through tough defense, but there wasn’t much to cheer for after that.
The Sun Devils shot poorly the entire first half, but their offense got even worse during a seven-minute scoring drought. Hurley’s squad couldn’t catch a break as Mississippi State extended its lead to 16 while dealing with its own offensive hiccups.
Things went from bad to worse for ASU as Mississippi State’s offense started clicking. The Bulldogs shot 46% from the floor despite going 5-16 from beyond the arc in the half. Mississippi State guard Trey Fort scored 14 points, while ASU’s five starters totaled only 14.
The Sun Devils’ defense let the Bulldogs take good looks from beyond the arc and cut to the basket for high- percentage shots. ASU struggled to compete on the boards as Mississippi State won six offensive rebounds, which produced nine second-chance points.
The first half came to a dramatic conclusion when Dashawn Davis made a buzzer-beater to extend Mississippi State’s lead to 21, three more points than Hurley's team scored.
Things didn’t look much better for ASU coming back out of the locker room. The Sun Devils’ offense backslid by shooting 16% from the floor through the next four minutes. Junior guard Jamiya Neal knocked down a three-pointer, but the Sun Devils couldn’t buy a basket otherwise.
In the end, halftime improvements couldn’t help Hurley’s patch-worked team recover from its brutal first half. ASU finished shooting just 32% from the floor while being out-rebounded by 13 boards.
Collins and Lands led ASU’s offense by scoring 13 and 10 points, respectively. Collins passed up looks from mid-range and beyond throughout the game and chose to drive to the basket, where he struggled to finish against taller opponents. While Collins only attempted two three-pointers, Lands struggled from beyond the arc, shooting 1-5 from distance.
The Sun Devils’ season-opening loss marked its first to start a schedule since they fell to Colorado in China in 2019. Now, in a rematch from last season's loss, ASU will look for a fresh start Saturday against Texas Southern University at 1:30 p.m. MST at Desert Financial Arena.
Edited by Alfred Smith III, Sadie Buggle and Shane Brennan