Every handful of games, we see what Bobby Hurley envisions for ASU basketball (11-16, 7-10 Pac-12). Transition points, tough defense, small ball, fast ball: all the traits that this group plays into athletically.
Thursday night’s 82-65 victory over Colorado (18-10, 10-8) was one of those games, and they are starting to come by more frequently.
Could this team really do it? Could ASU run the table in the Pac-12 Tournament next month and sneak into the Big Dance?
Most people agree that the head would say no, but watching the Sun Devils win in the manner they did over the Oregon schools and Colorado makes the heart want to leave out a little hope for this ASU team that has gone through so much (Bagley injury, Covid, etc.).
In the event that the Sun Devils do make a run, those victories likely would look a lot like Thursday’s win over Colorado. Here are House of Sparky’s two main takeaways from the game.
Turnovers are this team’s best offensive asset.
It is no surprise that this team does not shoot the lights out consistently. That does not really matter when you create as much chaos in transition as Marreon Jackson and company did on Thursday. Jackson picked up five steals himself, which contributed to 14 total Buffalo turnovers on the night. He turned that into 10 quick points to start the game off the bench, giving ASU an early lead.
Jay Heath took over in the second half, tacking on 18 total points, the majority of those in transition. He also added a steal.
The transition offense flowed nicely, and the Sun Devils ended up winning the turnover battle 14-12. When that happens, the offense benefits. It’s what Hurley wants every game.
Depth replaces height.
Jalen Graham has maneuvered the key all season long. His production, especially recently, is paramount in the offensive scheme. The same held true Thursday with 14 points and five rebounds. Kimani Lawrence plays a significant role in the trenches too.
But Alonzo Gaffney and Enoch Boakye failed to contribute at Colorado. Other than a putback dunk by Gaffney (his only two points), neither dominated on the glass (combining for just eight rebounds total). Neither were a particular force in the paint, or on defense either.
But hey, this was one of the best games all season for this group. Does it even matter? It is clear size has never been a priority for Hurley, but in the event their other strengths are neutralized, one of those two will have to make up for it on the boards.
Also, the bench scored 35 points, largely from Jackson (17) and Luther Muhammad (15, 2-2 on threes). Performances like these will be necessary night-in, night-out in the conference tournament.
Sun Devils shot 55% from distance in that 1st Half— Sun Devil MBB (@SunDevilHoops) February 25, 2022
2nd Half up next on Pac-12 Network. pic.twitter.com/xKySpOL1Nh
At 5-4 in February, the Sun Devils can clinch a month-long record over .500 for the first time since December (3-2) with a victory at Utah (11-16, 4-13) on Saturday. It is the right time to get hot with March creeping upon us.
This was the third time this season the Sun Devils scored over 36 points in the first half. The other two games were victories over Northern Florida (39 points) and Oregon (42). So, 3-0 in games with 37+ points at halftime, which is something to look for.
Best game of the season for ASU hoops?— House of Sparky (@HouseOfSparky) February 25, 2022