As expected, the Sun Devils raced past the Florida A&M Rattlers on Sunday afternoon en route to a 27-point victory. Arizona State is now 2-0 for the first time since the 2009-2010 campaign, but the Sun Devils have had the benefit of a soft nonconference schedule on their side. Florida A&M hails from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, and anything less than offensive fireworks from Arizona State would be a cause for concern.
Though the Sun Devils have taken care of business in their first two contests, their schedule becomes considerably more challenging in the next few weeks. After two consecutive disappointing seasons, Coach Herb Sendek promised noticeable changes in the Sun Devils' style of play. Florida A&M offered a great example of the differences between the old and the new. House of Sparky analyzes the good, the bad, and the ugly from Sunday's blowout.
The Good: Arizona State took control of the game from the opening tip-off and never relinquished the lead. The Sun Devils looked determined to use the height advantage of 7-foot-2-inch center Jordan Bachynski and the big man did not disappoint. Bachynski credits a newfound drive and focus to his success, and laid in the first two baskets of the game with ease.
After demonstrating efficiency in the half-court, Jahii Carson and Carrick Felix delivered on Coach Sendek's up-tempo commitment as the fast break looked unstoppable in the early going. Felix dunked, Carson dished, and backup point guard Chris Colvin jumped in on the action as the Sun Devils took a 17-4 lead a little over five minutes in.
Colvin's presence off of the bench lifted the Sun Devils and provided the definitive spark they needed to win. His 15 points don't begin to describe his contributions, as Coach Sendek acknowledges Colvin's leadership on the floor is his biggest asset.
Many concerns about the Sun Devils trace back to their lack of depth, but Colvin and Eric Jacobsen (7 points) answered doubters as Arizona State's role players contributed 29 points off the bench against the Rattlers.
The best part about Arizona State's victory is the diversity in scoring. The Sun Devils won't find success by relying on a star, and Sunday's tilt demonstrated the extent of the talent on their roster.
Jahii Carson led the Sun Devils with 20 points, but five different scorers reached double-digit point totals. Sunday marks the first time since December of 2008 that Arizona State has had five players in double figures, and they will need to continue this trend if they want to have success against upper-echelon teams.
The good stats worth noting:
1) Arizona State shot 33-for-60 from the field for 55% field goal percentage
2) The Sun Devils shot 22-for-26 from the free throw line
3) 21 assists on 33 field goals highlights the ball movement and unselfish play
The Bad: A win's a win, right? Wrong
Any 27-point victory looks good in the standings, but playing Florida A&M won't benefit the Sun Devils' RPI ranking. The Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference consists of cupcakes forced to play their nonconference slate on the road to keep the power running in the gym, and the Rattlers are no exception.
With their backs against the walls, the Rattlers came out and gave the Sun Devils some good punches and exposed some definite weaknesses.
Backed by Jonathan Gilling's career high 15 rebounds, the Sun Devils won the rebound battle 41-36. However, Florida A&M does not list a player over 6-foot-9 on their roster and the discrepancy is too close for comfort. Jordan Bachynski grabbed eight boards, but he should have entered double-double territory with ease.
The Rattlers collected 14 offensive rebounds and boxed out with far more effort than every Sun Devil not named Gilling. There is no reason the rebound battle should have been close, but that's why the game isn't played on paper.
Another disturbing trend rears its ugly head in the turnover category. Last season, the Sun Devils committed a conference worst 16 turnovers per game. Sunday, the Sun Devils neglected the rock on many a fast break, and had 15 empty possessions to prove it.
As Arizona State transitions to a faster pace, growing pains are expected. However, a big number of miscues against a weak opponent means the offensive mentality has to change.
Finally, Evan Gordon churned out his second consecutive cold shooting. Considered a volume scorer, Gordon nailed two second half threes to back up his reputation. Unfortunately, his 0 for 7 start from the field plagued the Sun Devils during a critical stretch in the middle of the game.
When Arizona State struggles to score, they will look to Gordon who proved himself at Liberty University where he averaged nearly 15 points per game. If Gordon continues to take low percentage shots instead of driving to the hole, his shooting percentage will remain modest.
The bad stats worth noting:
1) Florida A&M scored 12 second-chance points
2) Arizona State committed 15 turnovers
3) Evan Gordon shot 2 for 9 from the floor
What happened to the Sun Devils in the middle of this game?
After opening up a 19-point lead in the first half, the Rattlers clawed back to create some tense moments for Arizona State fans everywhere. Flashbacks to last season's losses against the likes of Fairfield and Northern Arizona crept into memory when Florida A&M cut the lead to five in the middle of the second half.
No single player or miscue can be blamed for the Sun Devils' inability to put the game away, and that might be the biggest concern.
If a starter struggles, Coach Sendek can go to his bench. If the whole team struggles, the Sun Devils are hopeless.
Between the 6:21 mark of the first half and the 12:21 mark in the second half, Florida A&M rattled off a 36-23 run that reminded the Sun Devils that they can't win with talent alone.
Arizona State looked lethargic on defense, uncertain on offense, and hesitant in transition. A poor shot selection and a lackadaisical effort in their man-to-man scheme characterized the Sun Devils' struggles.
Throughout the slump, Rattlers guard Jamie Adams torched the Sun Devils and fired at will from beyond the arc. No Sun Devil defender had an answer for the energetic shooter who finished with a game-high 24 points.
Fortunately for the Sun Devils, Florida A&M lacks the talent to hang for a full 40 minutes, but Adams and company exposed huge concerns nonetheless. If the Sun Devils encounter a mid-game lull akin to the one they faced against Florida A&M, they can say goodbye to any hopes of moving up in the Pac-12 ranks.
Sunday's final total of 97 points will put future opponents on notice, but the Sun Devils know they have much to work on before their next time out.
The ugly stats worth noting:
1) Jamie Adams finished with 24 points
2) The Rattlers went on an extended 36-23 run