The Sun Devils saw mixed results on their most recent home stand, surviving a late surge from Cal to win, 66-62, before squandering far too many opportunities in Saturday's 62-59 loss to Stanford. Here are some observations on what Arizona State did right and oh so wrong:
- As you all probably noticed Thursday, there's no doubting that Evan Gordon is talented enough to be the second best player on this team. That's probably why he's so damn frustrating. If Gordon has at least an average game against Stanford, the Sun Devils sweep this homestand. Instead, he shoots 4-of-16 from the field including a gag-inducing air ball near the end of regulation that would have cut it to a one-point game. What Gordon brings to the table from a defense and ball-handling perspective is always rock solid but he needs to form a consistent offensive game if Jahii Carson is ever going to catch a break.
- To Gordon's credit, I believe he's a huge reason for the defensive strides we're seeing ASU make as a team this season. Saturday's loss to Stanford may have been painful but that undersized Sun Devil lineup played some of the most ferocious defense I've ever seen from a Sendek team towards the end of the game. Gordon, Carson and Felix are superb individual defenders who pick pockets like it's their job. While they don't always make the best decisions towards the end of the game on the offensive end, this team is flat out instinctual when it comes to forcing the issue on defense. If only their bench was deeper, they could afford to press all the time.
- Speaking of the bench being deeper, it's good to know Ruslan Pateev is still alive. The Russian big man had one of his finest games of his career Thursday against Cal with 12 points, eight rebounds and three blocks in 26 minutes of action. No, the follow up performance wasn't as memorable but he at least still managed to wrangle in six boards while on the court for 14 minutes. With how hit-or-miss Jordan Bachynski has been as of late, it would be nice to see Pateev get a little more run. Somewhere between 12-15 minutes of hard-nosed rebounding out of Pateev each game would do this team a lot of good. And it wouldn't hurt to throw in a skyhook or two.
- Good to see that Thursday's night 17 turnover performance was a one time affair. Two days later against Stanford the guards looked far more in control, only coughing up the ball eight times. With their struggles from the charity strike and their inability to drain open shots at times, this team just doesn't have the luxury of wasting any more possessions with careless giveaways. On a side note, the Devils do deserve many kudos for the strides they've made in the turnover department since last season. I realize Carson's collected demeanor has to do with a lot of that but Herb Sendek looks like he got the rest of his team up to par as well. For my money, that's the biggest reason for the Sun Devils' quick turnaround in 2012-13.