Tip-off: 6:30 p.m. M.T.
Television: Pac-12 Networks
Wednesday night, ASU honored James Harden and his number. The program found themselves on national television with Bill Walton and Dave Pasch on the call on ESPN2 against a prominent powerhouse program like UCLA. The Sun Devils took advantage of their position, taking down UCLA 68-66. Now they go for the Los Angeles school sweep back off the national stage against perhaps a lesser talented team in USC.
ASU update 14-12 (6-7):
Since the Sun Devils started conference play 0-4, they're now 6-3 in their past nine games with the win over UCLA Wednesday. It was a feat they didn't accomplish in their usual manner, shooting just 5 of 21 from beyond the arc and turning the ball over 15 times. It was 16 assists on 23 made baskets, and the clutch timing of the few made threes that allowed the Sun Devils to slip past the Bruins. The unmatched physicality inside also allowed ASU to win the rebounding battle with much smaller players, not allowing many second chance points for the Bruins. Savon Goodman finished the night with 20 points and 12 rebounds and leads ASU in rebounding with 7.1 per game. Gerry Blakes still leads in points with 11.3.
USC update 10-16 (2-12):
Thought ASU was having a down year? Try Andy Enfield's club. USC has lost to Akron, Portland State, Army and have lost 10 of their last 11 conference games. They upset Oregon State 68-55 on Valentine's Day. They just lost by 30 points to Arizona down south and they're currently in the stage of trying to find something to build on for next season. The Trojans are young, only one upperclassman sits in the top five players in minutes per game on the roster. That being said, it's not a selfish team with three players (sophomore 6-foot-9 forward Nikola Javonovic, 6-foot-1 freshman guard Jordan McLaughlin and 6-foot-6 sophomore guard Katin Reinhardt) all averaging over 12 points a game.
Keys to victory:
1. Keep Katin Reinhardt off the three point line
While he's not as deadly as he was at Mater Dei in high school, he still shoots over 37 percent from beyond the arc. The last thing the Sun Devils need is someone to beat them at their own game in shooting well from deep. UCLA did this and ASU had to compensate on the boards. Inside the three point arc, he shoots just over 36 percent. Neutralize his ability from three and you've taken out a good chunk of USC's offensive game plan.
2. Get Eric Jacobsen back in it
After some stellar out of conference games, the local big man hasn't been as big of a threat with the evolution of Savon Goodman. At 6-foot-11, 230 pounds, sophomore forward Nikola Jovanovic should be a good test for him in the paint. If he can stay out of foul trouble, ASU should try and feed him a little more. Not sure what it is, but my gut tells me he could be a factor today. Goodman and Jacobsen clearly function well on the court together. The more ASU can balance out that tandem, the more lethal it can become.
3. Continue to be versatile
Herb Sendek noted Wednesday night that the mark of a good team is the ability to win in different ways, which the Sun Devils did against UCLA. While the NCAA Tournament is out of reach, all ASU can hope for at this point in the season is marked improvement among its players. Exhibit A to this success has been Tra Holder, continually improving as the season has gone on. If the Sun Devils can continue to win differently, it will go a long way toward building to next season.