TEMPE, Ariz. — At a team meeting Saturday, senior guard Chris Colvin was informed that he would be asked to be Arizona State’s sixth man this season. In the spirit of former Sun Devil All-American James Harden, he accepted. And less than 24 hours later, Colvin showed how valuable he can be there.
Colvin carried the Sun Devils in the first half and was a factor on both ends of the floor in a 97-70 victory over Florida A&M as part of the Las Vegas Invitational, when the Sun Devils had their fun in the sort of open-court game for which they are built this season.
“The great sixth man of the year, James Harden … he doesn’t have a problem with it and he is getting paid for it,” said Colvin, who spent time with Harden here during the summer before Harden signed his five-year, $80 million contract with theHouston Rockets.
“You can learn a lot from him. Watching basketball and seeing how a guy comes off the bench and sparks his team like James does, it’s like he should be starting. He is now. That doesn’t discourage me because I am the sixth man. I still have to come out and do what I have to do. How he handled it is basically how we are going to have to handle it.”
Colvin had 15 points in 25 minutes, one of five ASU players in double figures, as the Sun Devils opened a season 2-0 for the first time in three years.
Jahii Carson, who took control late, had 20 points, while Jordan Bachynski had 14 points and Jonathan Gilling and Carrick Felix had 13 apiece. Gilling, 6-foot-7, had a career-high 15 rebounds, 14 on the defensive end. Bachynski had eight rebounds, Carson had seven assists and Colvin had three.
It was the way Sendek and Colvin envisioned things – a steadyflow from the group, even when the regulars were given some time off.
ASU put the game away during a 17-2 run in which Colvin, Carson and Evan Gordon, all guards, were on the floor after Felix picked up his third and fourth fouls in two possessions seven minutes into the second half. The small group worked well.
“Everybody wants to start. Who wouldn’t? But he gave me my role, and it is to be the sixth man and help the team in any type of way. My thing is to come out and do whatever needs to be done. If it is a defensive assignment, then I have to go out there and play defense. If it is to get open shots for guys on offense, then that’s what I have to do,” said Colvin, who found his game in the second half of 2012 after transferring from Palm Beach Community College.
“We’re going to have a lot of guys who are going to be able to score. That’s going to be the theme. Once we sub, we want to still keep that spark and keep going. My thing is, coming off the bench, to provide the spark on the defensive end and the offensive end.”
Colvin did some of both while playing both the point and off guards. He enteried for Evan Gordon 4 ½ minutes into game before sliding over to point when Carson left, and he had seven straight points against Florida A&M’s pressing defense for a 22-7 lead less than eight minutes into the game. Colvin made two free throws when fouled on a drive to the basket, hit a 3-pointer from the left wing and then made a driving layup to force a Rattlers’ timeout. It was 37-19 when Colvin assisted on Jonathan Gilling’s 3-pointer from the top of the key with 5:54 remaining.
The Rattlers (0-2) pulled back into the game in the second half, getting to within five points at 57-52 after Jamie Adams – a 5-10 guard who is the younger brother of former Cal Pac-12 player of the Year Jerome Randle – made a 3-pointer with 12:12 remaining. Adams had 22 points at that point, but Colvin limited him to one basket the rest of the way.
“Chris just did a tremendous job on him,” ASU coach Herb Sendek said.
Carson took over the game offensively after that, scoring 14 points and two assists in the final 12 minutes.
“Had to,” Carson said of his effort.
The tempo – Florida Stated played a full-court pressing defense and pushed the ball up the floor offensively – worked to ASU’s advantage. ASU made 55 percent of its field goal attempts, held a 41-36 rebounding advantage and gave themselves plenty of breathing room by making 22 of 26 free throw attempts, 84.6 percent.
“With the guards we have that’s the tempo we want to play. We talked about that from the get-go. That’s how we want to do our offense, because we have quick guards that can up and down the floor,” Colvin said.