In a game that bracketologists may be striking fingers at come March, the Arizona State Sun Devils were quick to burst all bubbles, proving their preseason hype in a 90-68 win over San Diego State on Tuesday night.
After shooting 16.7 percent from three-point range in the first half, the Sun Devils trailed the Aztecs 40-34.
“There wasn’t a ton of life at the end of the first half. And even in the locker room,” ASU head coach Bobby Hurley said. “You just don’t know how a bunch of guys will respond.”
Two possessions into the second half, a three-pointer from Malik Pope brought San Diego State out to 43-34 lead.
With all odds against them, the Sun Devils’ fiery second half spark was ignited.
From that bucket on, ASU outscored SDSU 56-25, as Tra Holder hit six of his next 11 buckets including three of his next six threes, scoring 24 points in the Sun Devils’ win, and Shannon Evans added 11 of his 14 points in the second half.
“Experienced guards that have been in games like this before it’s great to have them in the roles that they’re in,” Hurley said. “Both of those guys are super determined to have a great season.”
While it was Holder who ran the floor, his options down low gave the Sun Devils the second half push they needed.
“I think they just make the jobs of the guards so much easier,” Holder said. “If it’s their night I’m going to have to keep feeding them. If it’s our night they’re going to have to come to us. They’re going to have to pick and choose which one they want to stop”
Well, on Tuesday, it was a ball for both the front and backcourt.
It wasn’t the stature of his 28-point debut and Lake may have fouled out with five minutes to go, but his 15 points and seven rebounds, while shooting 7-for-7 overall were more than enough.
Romello White, his counterpart, sat out the 2016-17 season due to academic ineligibility. White did not play in Arizona State’s season-opener against Idaho State due to a violation of team rules stemming back to preseason exhibition play.
On Tuesday night, he finally got his chance, earning a double-double, as he scored 16 points and added 10 rebounds.
“Amazing,” White said of his debut. “I talked to some guys on the team who had to redshirt. They just said play hard and it’ll be worth it... It was.”
Playing alongside the 6-foot-10 White wasn’t an issue, but more of a blessing, as the Sun Devils accounted for five blocks opposed to the Aztecs’ two.
While he didn’t play in the season-opener, White used Lake’s big debut as inspiration for a major performance of his own.
:”All you gotta do is really be strong and finish,” White said. “That’s what he did and I tried to do the same thing.”
The Sun Devils return to action on Friday evening against Northern Arizona at 6 p.m. MT.