From the get-go, Arizona State (1-1) had its way with Central Connecticut State (0-3) in the team’s home opener at the newly named Desert Financial Arena. The Sun Devils knocked off CCSU 90-49.
Offensively, the backcourt helped spur the 90-point outburst. ASU also had a size advantage, and they wreaked the full benefits of playing against a team who they were superior to on paper, and on the floor.
“We held them down and there probably hasn’t been a ton of games since I’ve been here where we’ve held a team under 50 points,” said ASU head coach Bobby Hurley. “We turned them over quite a bit.”
Rob Edwards put forth his second best scoring performance as a Sun Devil, as he had 23 points and hit five threes in the first half. Furthermore, guards Alonzo Verge Jr. and Jaelen House impressed. Both floor generals were effective in transition, and they were two of five Sun Devils in double-figures.
However, among their best attributes was their defensive pressure that led to offense, and that was exemplified by the Sun Devils 32 points off 23 CCSU turnovers, and 14 steals.
Hurley compared House to a defensive back with the way he reads plays and has his head on a swivel. House had 14 points, four rebounds, five assists, and four steals in his home debut in which he played in front of his family and friends.
Hurley coined House with a football comparison, but Edwards had a better way to put it.
“He’s like an irritant. I said that earlier while we were out on the court,” said Edwards of House. “He brings it everyday, and he picks up full court at practice so when he’s in the game, it’s just like, ‘Do you.’ He brings a lot of energy.”
As for House himself, he was pleased with his performance, and he explained his mentality when he steps out on the floor.
“It’s just effort if you really want to play defense,” House said. “I’ve been doing it since I was a little kid, and I am used to playing hard.”
Aside from just the guards, Thursday’s contest was also the return of sophomore forward Taeshon Cherry and junior forward Romello White, who returned following a violation of team rules that led them to miss the Sun Devils’ season opener against Colorado in China.
The duo brought fresh legs and enthusiasm, as White led the team in rebounds with 11, and Cherry had four points in seven minutes of action.
“That brought a lot of energy, and that was like our spark that we needed,” Edwards said. “They both dominate at their positions. Taeshon, he’s a shot-maker. He hits shots, and Mello, he’s a beast down low. He gets rebounds and blocks shots and does everything that we need.”
Despite the victory, Hurley still feels there is much to improve on. His biggest concern coming into the home opener was a lull following a jet-lagged group returning from China.
His first few nights back in the states, Edwards had trouble getting to sleep at a descent time, and it was an after-effect of the voyage.
Nonetheless, the win sufficed, but Hurley still wants improvements. Most notably, a better effort from behind the arc. ASU was just 1-12 in that area in the second half. Additionally with a smaller group of guards this year, Hurley wants a further emphasis on rebounding.
“I wasn’t particularly happy with the offensive rebounds,” Hurley said. “We have to lessen that if we can, but they did miss a lot of shots so they had a lot of opportunities to try and get a rebound.”
Ultimately, those little areas are things to try and improve upon during an early-season, non-conference stretch.
For now, a win is a win, and ASU dominated from start to finish on Thursday.
“I think we are a bit of a work in progress,” Hurley said. “That’d be my best call after tonight. There are some bright spots and things to be pleased about, and some others that we got to just improve and get better.”