Kodi Justice made himself clear after losing to Oregon: “It was literally the backboard.”
It wasn’t hard to tell, especially when your team gets dominated within the key: Bullied so bad that Oregon had 38 points compared to ASU’s 16 in the paint. The Sun Devils allowed 15 offensive boards.
Head coach Bobby Hurley blamed the zone, admitting he hasn’t designed a scheme good enough to break it.
Well, Saturday, something may have clicked.
Arizona State was losing for 27 minutes, even trailed by 13 with 12 minutes to play, but overcame the deficit to defeat Oregon State, 77-75, before a crowd of 13,459 at Wells Fargo Arena.
The bigs finally broke through, outscoring Oregon State, 34-32, in the paint. Seven Sun Devils played for more than 15 minutes.
“I felt like none of us wanted us to lose,” Shannon Evans said. “Kodi made big shots when I kicked out to him too. De’Quon Lake with the dunks, Remy, Kimani with great minutes. Mickey with the stop at the end, so everybody contributed and we got a good win today.”
Evans led the floor, scoring 22 points and Justice added 14. The usual suspects were in command.
But ASU’s leading scorer, Tra Holder, wasn’t. He managed just four points on 1-of-9 shooting. It was by far his worst performance all season. But that’s where the big men came into play.
Lake, Romello White, Mickey Mitchell, Kimani Lawrence and Vitaliy Shibel, a quintuple who combined for 16 points in a loss to Oregon, scored 25 against Oregon State.
Lake led the pack with 11 points and six rebounds.
“Lake, I couldn’t take him out of the game because he was so athletic around the basket and did so many things to open up the game for us,” Hurley said.
He also had a rough time taking out his bench.
Remy Martin, who averages 25.3 minutes per game, played just 15 on Thursday night. On Saturday, he played seven extra, scoring 12 of Arizona State’s 27 bench points that toppled Oregon State’s substitutes by a 20-point margin.
“We just have gotta get production. And against Oregon we did not get good production from our bench. And tonight, the bench responded,” Hurley said. “Remy had great minutes. Kimani did very well. Vitaliy’s plus, minus was very good. He was getting good minutes on the floor.”
It’s an issue: The Sun Devils are a bit undersized.
Arizona has 7-1 Deandre Ayton. Colorado owns a 7-footer in Dallas Walton. Utah started two 6-10 big men in David Collette and Tyler Rawson. Oregon and Oregon State both outrebounded ASU.
Arizona State’s tallest starter is 6-9 White.
But this game was a step in the right direction. Arizona State survived.
“We knew that at home you don’t want to drop two games. And we have not been playing exactly the way we were earlier in the season.” Hurley said. “I know that’s going to be the case, so we’ve just got to push through the tough times, and I know that we’re going to respond.”
Follow Josiah Destin on Twitter @jdestinsports