TEMPE, Ariz. — ASU’s strong, smooth start continued Friday, even though Bradley successfully slowed the pace and took some of the zing out of the Sun Devils.
“We want to try to get 100 every night,” Jahii Carson said.
“It’s tough. We like to get out and run. When the pace is slow, we are all a little sluggish.”
Not that it affected the outcome. ASU was in control from the midpoint of the first half, when a 17-1 keyed by two NBA-range Carson 3-pointers made the 70-58 victory at Wells Fargo Arena almost a foregone conclusion, despite Bradley’s pluck.
The Sun Devils (5-0) are off to their best start since 1985-86, and they will try to make it six in a row for the first time since the 1980-81 Byron Scott-Alton Lister-Fat Lever team when they take on No. 25 Marquette here Monday.
Marquette lost several players, including former ASU stalwart Trent Lockett, from its Elite Eight group last season, and ASU relishes the challenge as a way to crack the top 25, especially after overcoming a similarly athletic UNLV team 86-80 on Friday. The Sun Devils had the 32nd-most votes in the most recent Associated Press poll.
“We feel we can play with any athletic team in the country,” Carson said. “We are not going to be afraid of their length and their athleticism. We look at it as a way to get into the rankings.”
The usual suspects led the way for ASU against Bradley. Carson had a team-high 19 points and continued to show his range from the outside, going 3 for 6 from 3-point range. He is 11 for 20 this season, and his attention to that phase of his game in the offseason has been obvious. A Bradley player rolled into Carson’s right knee during a scrap for a loose ball in the second half, but Carson played on. He said afterward he is “pretty good.”
Jordan Bachynski had 15 points, 10 rebounds and five blocked shots, and Jonathan Gilling recovered from a outlier of a night against UNLV by scoring 14 points and going 4 for 6 from long range. He was 0 for 9 against the Rebels, 0 for 7 from 3-point range.
“I know I can make shots,” said Gilling, who had no residual hangover. “I’ve made thousands in my life.”
Coach Herb Sendek knows what he has from those three and wing Jermaine Marshall, and he juggled his lineup slightly Friday. The nonconference season is a time of discovery, and the Sun Devils are looking to find the best mix.
Freshman Egor Koulechov started at small forward in place of senior transfer Shaquielle McKissic, who had started all of the previous four games. It seemed to be good for both.
It was a reward for 6-foot-5 Koulechov, who provided a strong presence in the victory over UNLV on Tuesday when he had five points, 10 rebounds, four assists and two blocked shots in 34 minutes. He played all but 29 seconds in the second half, when the Sun Devils outscored the Rebels by 10.
Koulechov had five points and two rebounds, all in the first half.
“We really felt Egor earned a start with his amazing hustle at UNLV,” Sendek said.
The change also seemed to spark McKissic, who had the best overall game of his short time since transferring from Edmonds (Wash.) Community College for a first and final season in Division I. McKissic had two points, three rebounds and seven assists, tying Carson for the team high. He had six of his assists in his 10 first-half minutes, and he had assists on three straight possessions — a Bachynski layup and Carson’s two 3-pointers — during ASU’s game-breaking spurt.
The refining of roles is likely to continue as the preseason continues. Freshman off guard Chance Murray and sophomore post player Eric Jacobsen also have shown well in reserve play, and others have had spurts.
“We’re still very much a work in progress,” Sendek said.
“I challenged our guys to challenge me, to force me to think of ways to get them in the lineup.”
Koulechov is the third freshman to start in each of the last seasons, and ASU would be the big winner if he fits as well as the previous two, Gilling and Carson. Gilling started 18 games in 2011-12, when injuries and defections led to an opportunity that he embraced. Carson, of course, started all 35 games last season.
“They have been learning things,” Gilling said, responding to a question about Koulechov and McKissic. “Shaquielle is learning the system, and what to do and what not to do. You see him getting better. The same goes for Egor.”