Sun Devils stymied then dominated by Wildcats
TUCSON, Ariz. — A reworked Arizona State offense ran into a recommitted Arizona defense in McKale Center on Sunday night and the Sun Devils found it difficult to cope.
The mid-December insertion of transfer forward Savon Goodman into the starting lineup brought with it natural changes to Sun Devils attack as other roles were reconfigured, and the newness was evident against an Arizona team smarting after giving up 71 points in a loss at UNLV in its last game, Dec. 23.
The Sun Devils had so much trouble getting into their offense they had more turnovers (22) than made baskets (14) in a 73-49 loss to the No. 8 Wildcats. The turnovers were a season-high.
"Twenty-two turnovers, we are not going to beat anybody in this league," Goodman said. "We didn’t establish our execute our offense as well as we do. Give credit to them. That (turnovers) is something we have to look at. We players have to get better. We have to own up to that and know we have to take care of the ball."
The Sun Devils have been a work in progress all season as they look for the proper balance while trying to replace their three leading scorers from last season, and they came into the Pac-12 opener on a high note after the new lineup rode to victories over Detroit and Harvard.
But Arizona established itself early with a new starting lineup that included its best defensive player, forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, and never let ASU get going.
After Roosevelt Scott drove the lane for a 7-6 ASU lead four minutes into the game, Arizona went on a 15-1 run as part of a larger 23-5 spurt. ASU had two baskets and seven turnovers in that stretch.
With T.J. McConnell pressuring Gerry Blakes and Hollis-Jefferson hounding wing Shaquielle McKissic, the Sun Devils struggled to complete the first pass more than a few times as the McKale crowd roared.
Blakes had nine points and eight turnovers, and off guard Roosevelt Scott, making his third start, had eight points and five turnovers.
"Obviously with Gerry trying to play that position for the first time, we are a work in progress," Sun Devils coach Herb Sendek said. "When Savon became eligible mid-stream, we’ve tried to reconfigure ourselves to take advantage of him. Offensively, that’s taken us down some different roads."
Sendek also gave Chance Murray, Tra Holder and Kodi Justice time at the point as the game progressed. Holder and Justice combined to start the first 11 games.
"It’s something that we have to get better at, and the other guys have to help them," Sendek said of his point play. "It would be unfair to shovel everything on that. There were instances when guys didn’t get open, or guys didn’t do their fair share.
"We’re going to go with Gerry. We’re going to go with Tra and Chance. We’ve already had the opportunity to try to do a multitude of different things. We just have to try to get better and play who we have."
ASU shot 32.6 percent from the field and were outrebounded 33-23.
Arizona led 45-25 at halftime and 56-31 six minutes into the second half.
"They are very talented, and they have great size and length," Sendek said. "So you don’t get a lot of easy things at the basket. Their guards do a good job applying pressure. Their wings are long and athletic. They are one of the most elite teams in the country."
Goodman got in foul trouble early against the Arizona’s big front line, getting two fouls in the first 5 Â½ minutes and was not the force he had been in recent non-conference games, when he average 15.8 points and eight rebounds in four games since gaining his eligibility. He had two points and three rebounds in 19 minutes.
"They play together as a defense," Goodman said. "We didn’t establish our execute our offense as well as we do. Give credit to them."