For the first time this season, the Arizona State Sun Devils faced a quality opponent on Thursday. And for the first time this season, they ended up on the wrong side of the final result.
The Northern Iowa Panthers dominated Arizona State in every phase of the game in this Tire Pros Invitational opener, cruising to an 82-63 victory at the HP Field House outside of Orlando. The loss dropped the Sun Devils to the tournament’s loser’s bracket.
The game did get off to a decent start for Bobby Hurley’s team, who led 13-11 after the opening four and a half minutes. But as the shooting went, so did Arizona State.
Northern Iowa stayed hot, however, and kept the pressure on. The Panthers buried seven three-pointers in the first 20 minutes, allowing them to carry a 37-29 lead into the locker rooms.
Senior transfer Torian Graham was the lone bright spot for the Sun Devils in this one. Making his first start of the season, the shooting guard poured in 19 points on a four-of-eight shooting day from behind the arc.
Graham did pick up a couple of quick fouls to start the second half though, and that combined with a cold start to the final stanza allowed Ben Jacobson’s team to put this one to bed early. An 11-2 run pushed their lead to 46-34 with 16 minutes remaining, and that advantage was stretched to 18 points a little more than 10 minutes later.
The final was 82-63, an ugly start to what should be a very telling three-game trip to the Magic Kingdom.
Northern Iowa improved to 2-0 with the 19-point win, while the Maroon and Gold dropped to 2-1.
Senior guard Jeremy Morgan led all scorers with 20 points while also pulling down 12 rebounds for the Panthers. Three Sun Devils finished the afternoon in double figures, with Tra Holder (13 points) and Obinna Oleka (10) complimenting Graham’s 19-point performance.
There will be very little rest for Hurley’s team, who returns to the floor tomorrow afternoon at 3:00 p.m. (MST). They will face the loser of today’s Oklahoma-Tulane game.