With the news coming out within an hour of tip that ASU would be without freshman Kimani Lawrence and redshirt freshman Romello White and that sophomore Ramon Vila was leaving the program, the Arizona State Sun Devils’ season opener was immediately thrown in to tumult, at least to those outside the team.
Little did the outside world know, junior forward De’Quon Lake was more than ready to take their places.
The transfer from Iowa Western scored 24 points and grabbed eight rebounds, as ASU topped the Idaho State Bengals 94-74 Friday night at Wells Fargo Arena.
The Sun Devils came out of the gate looking out of sync without Lawrence and White, falling behind Idaho State 8-4 at the first official timeout.
From there, it was all Arizona State.
Hurley hoped to set the tone with Lake early on, getting him comfortable in the offense.
“We went to him a couple times early by design to try to get him touches,” Hurley said. “We thought we might have had an advantage in there because he does have the ability to score on the block.”
Those paint opportunities sparked an 11-0 run that gave the Sun Devils a lead, then a 7-0 run that extended it.
At the final media timeout of the first half, ASU lead 39-33 with 3:02 remaining. Hurley wasn’t about to let his team rest on its laurels into halftime.
“It’s something we talk a lot about in practice, how you finish a half,” Hurley said. “In that last, under-4 huddle, we talked about winning the last four minutes.”
Led by senior guard Tra Holder’s five points, ASU proceeded to score the final 12 points going into the locker rooms, extending its lead to 51-33.
But the real star of the first half was Lake, who scored 13 points on six of seven shooting down low, while grabbing three boards and blocking two shots, setting the tone inside.
“He was amazing tonight,” senior guard Shannon Evans said. “He had a great week of practice... It carried over for tonight. He impacted the game tremendously, got everybody going.”
Lake had a block on Idaho State junior forward Jacob McCord that sailed into the ASU bench, a moment that’s become few and far between for this program.
Starting only Obi Oleka inside in 2016-17, the Sun Devils were pushed around inside by bigger opponents, but Hurley doesn’t foresee that being an issue this year with Lake, White and redshirst freshman forward Vitaliy Shibel manning the middle.
“I like the intimidation factor that that gives your defense,” Hurley said. “When guards think twice about going in there if you’ve got a guy that’s above the rim, that’s a presence that way.”
For the soft-spoken Lake, this is only the start.
“It’s been the expectation from the beginning,” Lake said. “So I got to keep improving from there.”