No. 3 Arizona State having fun, looking to go 11-0
TEMPE, Ariz. — After Shannon Evans II drained a 3-pointer early in Arizona State’s game-deciding burst in the second half Sunday, he turned and joyously skipped down the sideline toward the defensive end.
“He’s a comedian,” teammate Tra Holder said. “He’s great player and I’m happy for him.”
It has been that kind of season for Evans, Holder and the No. 3 Sun Devils, whose 76-64 victory over Vanderbilt pushed them to 10-0 for the first time in school history and moved them up two spots in the AP poll, matching their school-best ranking.
Arizona State will attempt to remain one of the four NCAA Division I unbeatens in a home game against the Longwood Lancers (3-8) of the Big South at Wells Fargo Arena on Tuesday.
Guards Holder and Evans lead the Sun Devils in scoring, averaging a combined 40 points a game, and 6-foot-8 freshman forward Romello White has given them a strong inside presence they lacked in coach Bobby Hurley’s first two years.
ASU added another piece Sunday, when Ohio State 6-7 transfer forward Mickey Mitchell had eight points and a career-high 13 rebounds in his first extended playing time since gaining his eligibility at the end of the first semester Dec. 10.
At times during his team’s decisive 49-18 run that spanned both halves against Vanderbilt, Mitchell was the Sun Devils’ only frontcourt player alongside Holder, Evans and guards Kodi Justice and Remy Martin. Mitchell had 10 rebounds in the first half.
“Very pleased with Mickey tonight,” Hurley said afterward. “Thought his rebounding was tremendous. Glad to see him look and appear to be more comfortable. He’s a rugged, hard-playing guy. He’s so physical.
“Mickey fits right in with our personality. He’s a blue-collar guy. He’s unselfish. He passes. He also brings a more physical element to our team. He gives me more lineup flexibility. He’s just starting to get adjusted to playing.”
Mitchell also had two assists and two steals while playing 24 minutes in his second appearance. He saw six minutes in the 95-85 victory at Kansas on Dec. 10.
ASU can be at its best with its small lineup, depending on the opponent. Vanderbilt went small most of the game Sunday, too.
“When everyone is making shots and going by the defender, it is very hard to guard us,” Holder said of the four-guard group.
“It is hard to build a game plan against that. We are a flow offense, and I think that gives us an advantage. Everybody can shoot 3s and dribble, so it is like ‘What do we do?’ as a defense. We’re a gritty team. We play taller that what we are. Coach Hurley gives us that grit.”
Longwood lost its first five this season, won three in a row, and has lost its last three. It has not beaten an NCAA Division I team since a 79-76 victory over Big South rival Presbyterian on Jan. 4, 2017.
The Lancers broke a 21-game losing streak with a victory over Division III North Carolina Wesleyan on Nov. 26. Their other victories this season are against Division II opponents. They lost to Illinois 92-45 on Dec. 13 and fell to Cornell on Saturday. They will stay in the area to face WAC opponent Grand Canyon on Thursday.
Junior guard Isaiah Walton (17.2) and senior guard D.K. Ashe (13.6) are the two Lancers scoring in double figures. Ashe had a career-high 31 and Walton had 22 in the 107-78 victory over North Carolina Wesleyan.
Walton missed the 69-62 loss to Cornell with an undisclosed injury. The Lancers outrebounded Cornell and limited the Big Red to 39.7 percent shooting from the floor. Longwood shot only 35.3 percent from the field.
“I thought we were excellent at defending them and defending their sets, but we just didn’t score enough points,” Longwood coach Jayson Gee told reporters.
“We miss Isaiah. … We just didn’t shoot the ball well. Didn’t shoot free throws well, didn’t shoot jump shots well, didn’t hit layups. We’re just a better offensive team than that.”