In their 71-54 loss at the hands of the U of A Wildcats on Saturday, the Sun Devils simply looked lethargic and sloppy. They could not find a way to get into an offensive rhythm partially due to a suffocating Arizona defense, but also because of a skewed rotation.
The absence of senior guard Chris Colvin really threw the team in a tailspin. He relieves both Jahii Carson and Evan Gordon off the bench and is the sixth man for the team. Due to unknown circumstances surrounding a violation of team rules, Colvin did not play against Arizona and Carson and Gordon were forced to log heavy minutes.
When Carson obtained three fouls in the first half, that is when the Devils started to lose control. He is the mastermind of the offense, the one that pieces everything together. With him off the floor, ASU was forced to leave ball handling duties to Gordon and put Bo Barnes in the game.
Carson's foul trouble led to easy points for U of A, as well. With him in foul trouble, his usual high pressure man defense had to be ratcheted down so as to avoid further foul trouble. Given the talent the Cats have on the inside, including freshman center Kaleb Tarczewski, Sun Devil bigs had a difficult time rotating over without leaving someone wide open.
Foul issues were not the only problems that plagued the Devils, though. Two of their starters, both of which are relied upon heavily in the offense, went missing in action for the territorial battle. Carrick Felix did not score his first field goal of the day until the waning minutes of the first half. As for Jonathan Gilling, the team's stretch power forward, he made just two field goals on the day.
The Devils rely heavily on Jordan Bachynski, their big 7-2 center in the paint. When he is able to threaten opposing teams down low, they are often forced to bring extra help, leaving Felix or Gilling open on the perimeter. It seemed that in the game against the Wildcats, Tarczewski managed to hold his own against Bachynski, which kept the Sun Devils from playing the inside-out ball they love so much. Bachynski made just one field goal on five attempts, hindering ASU's offense greatly.
What this game seemed to boil down to was a lack of preparation and a game plan. Arizona State looked very nervous to be playing their Tucson foes and the 4-18 shooting between Felix, Gilling and Bachynski is indicative of that. Freshman point guard Jahii Carson was forced to take too much of the burden himself and when he left the game, no one was able to pick up the slack.
When ASU travels south for a rematch in March, expect them to swing the ball around more so as to incorporate all of their scorers. If they get the ball to Bachynski in the post and if he can be semi-effective, that will open up the outside shot for them as the defense will naturally begin to collapse.
I expect a big turnaround from the Sun Devils next time. This is not the team we have grown accustomed to watching here in the 2012-13 season.