The Arizona State Sun Devils needed two overtimes to get past Northern State last week at home. Then, they needed a late surge to get past San Diego Wednesday in a 85-77 win, leaving some to wonder about the state of the team with the season fast approaching.
Friday night at Wells Fargo Arena, ASU left no doubt it’s ready for the regular season.
Senior guard Shannon Evans led the way with 50 points on 17-of-26 shooting in a 115-69 win over the Arizona Christian Firestorm. Freshman forward Kimani Lawrence scored 18 and freshman guard Remy Martin added another 13 of his own.
Two days after edging the Toreros, coach Bobby Hurley said this game was important to play well, since it models the conference schedule of playing twice weekly. Under Hurley, ASU has yet to sweep a weekend set.
“I thought it was important for us to try and put together a solid, winning type performance as preparation,” Hurley said. “Last year we rarely won two games in a row, so we’re trying to build momentum there.”
Both teams got off to hot start offensively, shooting over 50 percent in the first half, and keeping the pace up. The Sun Devils were able to generate turnovers and easy baskets on the other end, resulting in a 53-40 Sun Devil advantage heading into the locker room.
In the second half, though, ASU came to play on the defensive end, allowing 29 points on 29.4 percent shooting from the field, keeping the Firestorm at arm’s length.
“I felt like as the game wore on, they wore down some because of our ball pressure, our intensity and our desire to defend the ball and make them work,” Hurley said. “Early in the game, you’re going to make some shots and as the game progresses and you keep the pressure on, teams maybe not always shoot the ball as well.”
While ACU struggled to find its footing, Evans flourished.
The senior guard poured in 21 points in the final 10 minutes of the game to reach the elusive 50-point mark. He said he’d only reached 50 one before, while at Hargrave Academy.
“I looked up and was like, ‘oh, wow, I got 40,’” Evans said. “Then I think one of my assistant coaches whispered in my ear when I was on the bench, like, ‘go for 50.’ And I was like, ‘ok, bet.’”
With a 3-0 exhibition record behind them, the Sun Devils turn their attention to their regular season opener against Idaho State next Friday night.
Preseason games don’t mean much, but Evans likes the way his team has looked so far, but he knows there’s a long road ahead for him and the Sun Devils.
“I feel like we’re getting better every day,” Evans said. “But right now you don’t want to play your best basketball. You want that to come in January, February, closer to March. I feel like we’re in the right stride, doing the right things to get there.”