It wasn't pretty, but it didn't have to be.
The Arizona State Sun Devils improved to 3-0 with a hard-fought 64-53 win over the Cornell Big Red. The Sun Devils pulled away with a victory after a rough offensive outing in which they shot just 27.6% from the field in the first half.
The Sun Devils came out firing, and missing, from beyond the arc as 18 of their 29 first half field goal attempts were taken from the perimeter. Arizona State made just three of its 18 long-range attempts, and head coach Herb Sendek voiced his displeasure with his team's offense.
"We were impatient and very quick to settle in the first half," Sendek said.
With the clock ticking down at the end of the first half, the Sun Devils had yet to reach the 20-point mark. Flashbacks to last season's stagnant offense began to creep into the minds of Arizona State fans, but Jahii Carson took over.
The Sun Devils forced a Big Red turnover with 4.8 seconds left in the half and Carson handled the ball on the ensuing inbound. The freshman point guard crossed over his defender and nailed a deep triple to pull the Sun Devils within three.
"When you're wide open and you got an open three, it's best you take it," Carson said.
Arizona State thrived off of the spark Carson provided and they came out hot in the second half. The Sun Devils opened on an 11-2 run and never looked back. Carson spearheaded the all out attack on the Big Red with 15 second half points including a 10-12 effort from the free throw line.
Carson led the offense while Jordan Bachynski held down the defensive end of the floor for the Sun Devils. Bachynski finished with seven blocks on the evening with six of those coming in the second half.
The Big Red found moderate success, but they struggled throughout the game in the low post. Cornell managed just 18 points in the paint and many of the Big Red post players resorted to jump shots. Forward Josh Figini accounted for 12 points, but six of those came from beyond the arc as he was reluctant to challenge Bachynski inside.
Cornell committed 23 turnovers and the Sun Devils used five Big Red giveaways in the first five minutes of the second half to seize the lead. Coach Herb Sendek was pleased with the Sun Devils' defensive output and noted their attention to detail on that end of the floor.
"Every single defensive number on the traditional stat sheet is a plus," Sendek said.
Despite a poor shooting performance, the Sun Devils climbed out of an early hole to come away with their third consecutive victory to open the season. A victory over Cornell shows that the Arizona State players haven't just adopted new schemes; they've adopted their attitudes.
Last season, a rough night on offense often spelled doom for the Devils. Tonight was a different story. Arizona State improved its record to 3-0 on the year because the team proved that it could handle adversity.
"It's been a great start for us. Good momentum and we obviously face a great challenge this week," Sendek said.
Heading into Friday's match-up against Arkansas, Coach Sendek and the Sun Devils feel battle-tested and ready to take on the big dogs.