Arizona State has believed in itself all season, and players said during preseason practice that they saw the makings of an elite team.
It may be time for others to start taking notice.
The Sun Devils joined UCLA as the only two 3-0 teams in the Pac-12 by overwhelming Oregon State midway through their Thursday game and then making enough plays down the stretch for a tidy 72-62 victory at Gill Coliseum, the first game of their first conference road trip.
ASU (14-2, 3-0) went on a 34-11 run in a 12-minute span of the late first and early second halves to take a 52-37 lead it never lost, although Oregon State got within four three times late in the second half.
The victory, coach Herb Sendek’s fourth in six games in Corvallis, set up a Sunday showdown against Oregon (13-2, 2-0), which handed No. 4 Arizona its first loss of the season with a 70-66 victory earlier Thursday.
“We’re going to have a treat for us, but we are ready for the challenge,” ASU forward Carrick Felix said in a radio interview.
The winner of that game might even join Arizona (14-1, 2-1) in the national polls, not that it is a primary goal or a motivating force.
“We just make sure we take one game at a time and keep our eye on the prize. We know our ultimate goal, but in order to get there we need to take care of each game. This Oregon State game was a good game. We will probably reflect on it a little bit (Friday), but we have to move on,” Felix said.
“Our approach is very consistent,” Sendek said. “Our guys showed a good measure of resiliency, bending but not breaking.”
Felix, the reigning Pac-12 player of the week, continued his strong play and was joined by Jahii Carson, Jonathan Gilling and Jordan Bachynski in another well-rounded effort.
Felix had 18 points and 14 rebounds, his fifth double-double of the season and his third in the last six games. He is the only Pac-12 player in the top 10 in both scoring and rebounding and he had seven points during ASU’s big run.
Carson, named one of the 20 finalists for the Bob Cousy Award honoring the nation’s top point guard earlier in the day, had 20 points, four assists and three steals while rebounding from a five-point game against Colorado last Sunday. The Buffaloes collapsed on Carson and limited him to five points in ASU’s 65-56 victory, but Oregon State had no answer.
Gilling had 14 points and six rebounds and Bachynski had 10 points, nine rebounds and four blocked shots. With Felix and Bachynski leading the way, ASU had a 49-35 rebounding edge, their biggest margin of the season. Some of that might have been due to the fact that Oregon State (10-5, 0-2) played without 6-foot-10 Eric Moreland, who was averaging a double-double and was the nation’s No. 9 rebounder entering the game. Moreland and freshman guard Victor Robbins have been suspended indefinitely, Oregon State coach Craig Robinson said.
“We didn’t play a full game, and I’m disappointed in that,” Robinson said.
“Our defense, for the most part, was very solid,” Sendek said. “We did a good job of taking care of the ball. I thought our guys really competed.”
Arizona State also limited the Beavers to a 37.3 field goal percentage, as their man-to-man defense has proven to be a nice change. The Sun Devils held Utah (34.5 percent) and Colorado (35.3) even below that in their Pac-12 sweep last weekend. Oregon State and Colorado, two teams that like to score from the perimeter, were a combined 7-for-41 from three-point range after the Beavers made 5-of-22.
With all that, it took the Sun Devils a while to get going. They trailed, 26-18, after Jason Collier’s breakaway slam with 5:41 left in the first half, but things took an immediate turn. ASU finished the half on an 18-4 run for a 36-30 halftime lead. Chris Colvin’s only 3-pointer of the game kick-started the ASU burst, which was punctuated by Felix’s 3-pointer from the top of the key with 32.5 seconds remaining in the half.
ASU followed that by scoring 16 of the first 23 points of the second half, with the usual suspects chipping in. Felix had two driving slams, one off a Carson assist, and Gilling took the ball through the Oregon State defense twice for layups. It was 52-37 after his second drive with 14:17 remaining.
Oregon State made another push, getting within four points three times, the last at 59-55 on Collier’s two free throws with 4:25 remaining, but again could not handle when it mattered.
Carson made a clever left-handed move to score in the lane with 2:44 remaining to begin a 13-4 ASU run that put the game away.