If the opening night of the college basketball season proved anything, it's that anyone is susceptible to an early loss against lesser competition. Washington State dropped their first game to UTEP and Ole Miss fell to Charleston Southern on a last second dunk. Arizona State (1-0) avoided the same fate against Chicago State with an 86-50 victory and they'll look to do the same against Bethune-Cookman (1-0) Monday night.
The Wildcats, which finished eighth in the MEAC last season with an 7-25 record, return two of their top three leading scorers from last season and four starters in total. The two primary names to remember are 6-foot-1 sophomore guard Clemmye Owens and 6-foot-2 redshirt senior guard Mikel Trapp. Both men averaged 11.3 points per game last season. Starting center Travis Elliott, who stands 6-foot-8 and weighs in at 230 pounds, averaged 4.5 points and 4.9 rebounds. Troy Simmons is another 6-foot-1 senior guard who averaged just 2.5 points per game last season.
Keys to the game
1. Get out of the gates quicker
The Sun Devils pulled away against Chicago State without much of an issue, but it took a while for Arizona State to find itself in its first game. It wasn't until the middle of the first half with the score at 16-15 when the Sun Devils truly made their first big run of the night. They'll need to get out to a faster start against Bethune-Cookman and make sure sluggish starts don't become a trend.
2. Shoot better from the line
All of this is in the context of one game, but the Sun Devils shot an incredibly poor 55 percent from the free throw line Friday night against Chicago State. What was even more disconcerting is they missed most of them down the stretch as they got more tired. In close games, those end of game situations are when hitting free throws matters the most so Arizona State needs to show marked improvement in that area. It's easier to fix now in games with less pressure then it is two months down the road when it could become a habit.
3. Don't be content
It's true the Sun Devils should be up by 20 or 30 points in the second half, but this also means a chance to improve against real competition in a game without really having to worry about the score. Arizona State did a fine job of this against Chicago State, but its worth repeating that just because a team is up by a huge margin doesn't mean the style of play can become loose too. The mark of a disciplined team is one that can really move the ball around and work on their skills during games they know are in their control.
Matchup to watch:
Eric Jacobsen vs. Travis Elliott
Jacobsen had eight points and six rebounds against Chicago State, against a player who weighs 20 pounds less and is two inches shorter. It was a mediocre performance against a far inferior opponent given his muscular size. He also wasn't fed the ball enough and the offense wasn't run through him a lot. This may be part of the offensive game plan this season, but he should definitely get his fair share of points against the Wildcats Monday night.