Wells Fargo Arena was treated to a complete team effort Friday evening as Arizona State defeated UMBC 96-61 in their season opener.
The entire ASU starting lineup scored in double digits, showing a NCAA Tournament-worthy balance of contributions. Newcomer Jermaine Marshall tied Jahii Carson for the team-high in points with 19 points while also accumulating four steals. The Penn State transfer battled sickness in the past couple weeks yet showed no signs of rust.
"Just coming off Valley Fever and trying to get my legs back under me," Marshall said. "I'm not quite where I want to be. I was getting a little gassed out there on the floor especially early. But I'm getting there, doing everything the doctors telling me to do. Hopefully I will be 100 percent soon."
Sendek gave Marshall more credit.
"I thought Jermaine really played well tonight. In the first half, I thought his activity on a couple possessions really was a catalyst for us," Sendek said. "He shot the ball well, made his free throws. A good, solid performance for Jermaine."
Jordan Bachynski got his season started with a double-double: 12 points and a career-high 15 rebounds. His three blocks on the evening moved him one swat away from tenth place in conference history.
The underlining theme for both teams were foul calls. ASU and UMBC combined for a total of 51 fouls. College basketball changed the rules in the offseason, no longer allowing hand checking. The increased whistles are going to require some adjustments.
"If you add up these free throws you are either good at math or need a calculator," Sendek said on the rule change. "It definitely extends the time of the game. Players and coaches are going to have to adjust. I think we got a little bit of a sense that the game is being called pretty close."
The good news is the Sun Devils took advantage on the freebies, connecting on 75 percent of their attempt (33-44).
"Well that's definitely an improvement. Last year [free throws] probably cost as many games as any single factor," Sendek said. "Just about every game except two in the conference that we lost last year were close games. I mean close, like the last possession or two. And if you looked at our free throw shooting we were last in the league. So yes, it's good for to see our guys go to the line and convert at a much higher percentage tonight, especially as much as we were there."
Depth was among the biggest problems for ASU last season. Twelve players logged minutes on Friday, despite Sendek normally keeping the rotation around eight. The rotation will continue to be in flux until as the season progresses. Making matters more muddled in the best way possible are the continued contributions from the freshmen.
"There just hasn't been a lot of separation between guys every day in practice. There has been a lot of flip-flopping," Sendek said. "I think we are going to play several guys, maybe more than we have in the past. We have some first year players we are counting on....and that's why it was so good for some of those guys to get their barrings at the end of the game."
The Retrievers used mini-runs to keep the game interesting. In the first few minutes of the second half, UMBC outscored ASU 7-3. Aaron Morgan and the Retrievers had multiple chances to cut the deficit to inside 10 points but weren't able to cash in. Gilling and Marshall silenced the worries, connecting on back-to-back three pointers. Once ASU grabbed their initial double-digit lead around halfway through the first half, the 10-plus point advantage stood in tact.
The ASU offense went through stretches of sloppy play, which is nothing too unusual for season debuts. In spite of the careless play at times, the well-rounded effort turned into an impressive 96 points. After the win, Carson expressed his satisfaction.
"I think we played very well. Everybody got in and contributed," Carson said. "The bigs played excellent rebounding the ball. I think we need to run a little bit more but that comes with us playing with each other more. I definitely think we have a lot of work to do but I'm definitely impressed with how everybody played tonight."
The next game for the Sun Devils will be against Miami of Ohio on Tuesday, Nov. 12th.
- Jahii Carson notched 19 points and five assists, eerily similar to his 2011-12 season averages.
- Bo Barnes was the first player off the ASU bench.
- Shaquille McKissic went 3-for-6 on 11 pints and six rebounds in his debut for ASU/division one debut.
- Eric Jacobsen logged three blocks.
- ASU out rebounded UMBC 50-35.