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ASU Basketball: Homestand continues against Stephen F. Austin

Arizona State has one game remaining before Christmas break, coming this afternoon against the Lumberjacks.

Godofredo Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona State Sun Devils' stretch of four consecutive home games continues this afternoon against the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks, a team that has won at least 27 games in each of the past three seasons. This year's group does not look to be as talented, although they do come into Tempe as winners in seven of their last eight games.

Arizona State, meanwhile, is coming off its best offensive performance of the year. Bobby Hurley's team exploded for 98 points in an easy win against Houston Baptist on Saturday, a game that saw five players finish in double figures.

Next up is a team that should be a little more competitive than the Huskies of Houston Baptist.

Tip-off: 1:00 p.m. MT

Television: Pac-12 Networks

Arizona State Update (8-3):

Saturday's win was nice on a couple of different fronts. For one, the Sun Devils didn't play down to the level of their opponent, a problem that has plagued them at times over the past couple of years.

The game also provided a break from what has been a grueling nonconference schedule, giving the team a chance to experiment with a couple of different lineups and looks.

Sophomore combo guard Kodi Justice continued his hot shooting against Houston Baptist, picking up a quick 20 points via six three-pointers and a pair of free throws. He has scored 10 points or more in three of his previous four games and is beginning to look like a serious threat that Hurley can take advantage of in Pac-12 play.

Stephen F. Austin Update (7-3):

While Stephen F. Austin is rolling into this meeting with a five game winning streak, that stat can be a bit deceiving. The combined record of its first two opponents in that stretch is 3-18, and the last three victories were all against non-Division I teams.

Regardless, a streak is a streak, and the Lumberjacks are a team with confidence that has a tradition of winning. They won't be very intimidated by this trip to Tempe, and that should result in a more competitive affair than the one on Saturday in Wells Fargo Arena.

Stephen F. Austin is led by forward Thomas Walkup. The fourth-year senior is averaging 15.6 points and 6.5 rebounds per game.

Keys to victory:

1. Don't break too soon

With a couple of days off for Christmas following this game, it would be easy for the maroon and gold to overlook a decent mid-major team in this one. It will be imperative that they focus up for 40 minutes because the Lumberjacks have the talent to score in bunches and make up a deficit quickly.

2. Feed the hot hand

As we noted above, Justice has been on fire recently. While he will be a focal point of the SFA scouting report, Arizona State should still try and get him involved early. With more important games coming as the New Year approaches, it is critical that Justice stays hot.

3. Learn from UNLV

Like UNLV, Stephen F. Austin will spend a lot of time applying full court pressure. Brad Underwood is a firm believer in trapping and causing a lot of chaos on defense, but the Sun Devils handled that type of opponent with ease when they played in Las Vegas on Wednesday. If they copy the same game plan in this one, ASU should emerge victorious.

Prediction: Arizona State - 76, Stephen F. Austin - 69