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ASU Basketball: Balance will be key after close win over Bethune-Cookman

Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Beating an early out of conference cupcake team by 10 points was hardly what the Sun Devils were looking to achieve Monday night against Bethune-Cookman. That is, however, exactly what happened as Arizona State inched by the Wildcats 49-39.

After jumping out to a 16-2 lead, the Sun Devils offense was stifled by zone defense. It's a tactic used by less talented teams to try and overcome the gap in skills to limit penetration and Bethune-Cookman succeeded in the second half.The Sun Devils were content to pass around the perimeter, driving and kicking until a usually mediocre shot exposed itself. Eric Jabcobsen was one of the few bright spots with 11 points in the first half.

"Eric is really playing good basketball for us and he's doing it on a daily basis," Arizona State head coach Herb Sendek said. "If you came after out practice one after the other you would discover the same thing. He really has elevated his game tremendously."

One of the ways to beat a zone defense is by sprinting down the court in transition to try and make it to the hoop before the zone has time to get set, but that didn't work either against the Wildcats.

"We were an offensive, help me with a good word---nightmare--- in the second half," Sendek said. "We only had five field goals and 10 turnovers (in the second half). I can't remember the last time a team had five field goals and 10 turnovers in a half."

Another issue was the 19 turnovers the Sun Devils committed. Some were stepping out of bounds on shot fakes, but most were overthrown or mishandled poor passes. While it's a young team still trying to find chemistry, the talent of this group is superior than what they showed against Bethune-Cookman.

"The big problem for us is we turned it over 19 times and we turn it over in every way possible," Sendek said. "Run out of bounds, come back in and be the first guy to touch it, catch a ball in a corner and step out of bounds and that part was very frustrating."

This team has to be able to strike a balance in many facets in the early going. The first is between developing their skills on the court and still having the game well in hand at the same time. Arizona State tried to work the zone, but Bethune-Cookman milking the clock on the other end prevented the Sun Devils from having the ability to miss a couple of shots. Every shot became more important in the last five minutes.

The second weighing of the scales can be found between playing fast and playing out of control. An easy problem to encounter, it occurred multiple times against Bethune-Cookman. It's how most of the turnovers occurred with longer errant passes down the court which missed their man.

There were a lot of issues, but perhaps Monday night was a blessing in disguise. The chance to regroup and for the Sun Devils to realize they still have a long way to go this season.

"You just felt the air evaporate from the gym as they held onto the ball and we kind of just sat around," Sendek said.