After starting its three-game homestand with a pair of blowout losses, the Arizona State Sun Devils are in desperate need of a victory before Pac-12 play begins a week from Friday.
Enter, the Central Arkansas Bears.
Losers of 11 of its 12 games to start the 2016-17 season, Central Arkansas will roll into Wells Fargo Arena tomorrow with a 1-11 record. The Bears’ lone win this season came at Army on November 20, and they are 0-4 thus far against power conference opponents.
Tip-off: 1:00 p.m. MST
Television: Pac-12 Networks
Arizona State Update (6-6):
While it may have lost by double digits, Arizona State put forth one of its best efforts of the young season in Tuesday’s loss against No. 9 Creighton.
The Sun Devils led by as many as nine early, and while the Blue Jays would eventually take a 20-point lead at one point in the second half, a frantic effort on the defensive side of the ball allowed the team to keep things interesting for a while. The backcourt duo of Torian Graham and Tra Holder led the team with 24 points a piece, while Obinna Oleka finished with 19 for Bobby Hurley’s club.
Oleka also had a monster game on the boards, pulling down 16 rebounds before the night was done.
Central Arkansas Update (1-11):
As noted above, Central Arkansas has had a rough go of it after one-plus month of basketball.
Russ Pennell is in his third season at the helm in Conway, and if that name sounds familiar to fans of basketball in the Valley, it’s because Pennell made stops at Arizona State, Arizona, Grand Canyon, and with the Phoenix Mercury before being hired away by his alma mater. In his first two years with the Bears, Pennell’s teams posted a combined record of 9-48.
Their latest loss came on Monday at Morehead State, where the Eagles used an 18-5 run to turn a 54-50 lead into a blowout. The final score was 111-85.
Central Arkansas is led by Chandler product Jordan Howard, who is averaging 17.8 points per game this season. The junior point guard is coming off a season high 34-point performance earlier this week in Morehead.
Keys to victory:
1. Limit Howard
The Sun Devils should be sitting pretty at the end of this one as long as they force anyone but Howard to beat them. In the Bears’ best game of the season, Howard went for 28 points in a 12-point loss at Oklahoma State.
If the Maroon and Gold want a stress-free victory, they need to hold the hometown kid to under 20.
2. Find a rhythm from downtown
Hurley’s team has shot the ball at just a 28 and 21 percent clip from three-point range in their last two games.
That may get the job done against a team like Central Arkansas, but it is imperative that Arizona State starts to find its groove from downtown before it steps into the rigors of conference play.
Prediction: Arizona State - 85, Central Arkansas - 65