ASU MBB: Sun Devils Pull Away Late From The Citadel

Following the Tire Pros Invitational, ASU Basketball briefly returned home to defeat the Bulldogs of The Citadel 127-110 in a game featuring little defense.

When the Arizona State men’s basketball team scheduled The Citadel, the game was intended to be a chance for the team to catch its breath between returning from Orlando and going to the Bahamas to face No. 1 Kentucky.

After 237 combined points and 92 possessions by each team, the Sun Devils’ latest win was far from a breather.

“I was pleased to see the ball go through the basket, that’s the good news,” Sun Devils head coach Bobby Hurley said. “We shot and scored the ball a lot better than we did in Florida.”

Despite outplaying its opponent and leading for all but 22 seconds, ASU was tested mentally and physically by the video game-like pace created by Bulldogs head coach Duggar Baucom. Since the start of his tenure at The Citadel, Baucom has had his players live by the slogan, “Embrace the pace.”

Under Hurley, ASU has adjusted to playing a style of fast-paced basketball but this game elevated the phrase ‘up-tempo’ to new heights.

For the Bulldogs, freshman Kaelon Harris had a career-high 30 points on 11-12 shooting in the loss as a slow first half showed to be the difference.

Offensively, the Sun Devils were paced by the highly anticipated breakout of forward Sam Cunliffe. The true freshman electrified what was a quiet Wells Fargo Arena with his first career double-double, notching 23 points, 10 rebounds and five assists.

“Sam looked really smooth out there, he’s just looking more and more relaxed and comfortable with what we’re doing,” Hurley said. “He’s throwing himself into both ends of the floor, he’s thinking about everything and not just being a scorer.”

Additionally, junior Kodi Justice poured in 20 points off the bench after failing to score in double digits through four games. Justice’s night was cut short after fouling out late in the second half.

“It always feels good to see the ball go through the hole and yeah I might have struggled here and there but we have so many great players on our team that can score the ball. It didn’t affect me,” Justice said.

Justice’s statement proved accurate as four Sun Devils finished with at least 20 points for the game. Guards Shannon Evans II and Torian Graham were on the brink as well, scoring 17 and 19 points respectively.

Much of the offensive success against The Citadel can be attributed to 22 assists on 42 field goals, a statistic that Hurley preached had to improve from opening night.

“We focus on moving the ball. The last couple of practices we really have been trying to emphasize moving the ball and we moved it tonight,” Evans II said. “I feel like everybody put up good numbers.”

With the win, ASU improves to 4-2 with a game against No. 1 Kentucky looming in the Bahamas on Monday.

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