Sun Devils ride strong second half en route to big win over Aztecs
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — Arizona State knows what Tra Holder can do. He’s been doing it in the desert for four years.
The Sun Devils had an idea what Romello White is capable of, but had to wait to find out how he would handle a real game.
It was worth the wait.
Holder scored 24 points, White had 16 points and 15 rebounds in his debut, and Arizona State used a huge second-half run to beat San Diego State 90-68 on Tuesday night.
“It was amazing,” said White, who missed last season as an academic redshirt and the opening game for violating team rules. “I’ve been waiting a year, so it felt great.”
Arizona State (2-0) built an early 10-point lead, watched it turn into a halftime deficit, then raced away from the Aztecs with a 22-2 run in the second half.
The Sun Devils hit 20 of 30 shots in the second half while being guided by Holder, who had eight rebounds and six assists. De’Quon Lake added 15 points before fouling out.
White fumbled a few balls away early, but gave Arizona State a big spark off the bench after missing the opener and two exhibition games. He had five quick rebounds and swatted a shot into the stands to help the Sun Devils build their 10-point lead. White kept it going in the second half to open his career with a double-double.
“Even though he had that whole year of practice, that first real game, I thought he was a little nervous,” Arizona State coach Bobby Hurley said. “His motor doesn’t stop, so he kept playing hard and I thought his second half was outstanding.”
Trey Kell had 16 points and 10 rebounds, and Malik Pope added 14 points for San Diego State (1-1). Max Montana scored 15 points, but left with a left knee injury midway through the second half and did not return.
The Aztecs were able to match Arizona State’s intensity in the first half, but couldn’t in the second as the game quickly got out of hand.
“I told them they (ASU) were going to go on a run and don’t panic,” San Diego State coach Brian Dutcher said. “And then they went on a run and we couldn’t recover. It was too long of a run and we couldn’t get back in the game.”
Arizona State rolled over Idaho State 94-74 in its opener, getting 24 points, eight rebounds and three blocked shots from Lake in his Sun Devils debut.
San Diego State opened its first season under Dutcher with a 91-52 rout of San Diego Christian behind Pope’s 20 points and six rebounds.
The first true test for both teams was a game of runs until the Sun Devils ran away with it.
Arizona State built a 24-14 lead midway through the first half behind its defense, blocking five shots in a span of about three minutes.
The Aztecs figured the Sun Devils’ D out after that, hitting nine straight shots to take a 38-32 lead. San Diego State tightened up its defense, too, holding Arizona State scoreless over the final 3:42 for a 40-32 halftime lead .
The Sun Devils regained their mojo coming out of halftime, making 10 of their first 11 shots to go up 62-50 and kick off the rout.
“They really did turn it up, but it was us on defense,” Pope said. “The blow-bys, the drop-offs to the bigs, the rebounds — it was all of it.”
San Diego State: The Aztecs put up some fight after an Arizona State run in the first half, but had no answer when the Sun Devils turned up the pressure in the second.
Arizona State: The Sun Devils passed their first measuring-stick game of the season, playing well at both ends outside of a 5-minute-or-so stretch of the first half.
Arizona State will be without freshman forward Kimani Lawrence for 4 to 6 weeks after he had surgery for a stress fracture in his left foot. A top-100 recruit, the 6-foot-7 Lawrence was expected to be a starter this season. He did not play in ASU’s opener.
Montana played well for the Aztecs in the first half, scoring 12 points, but went down awkwardly early in the second half and headed to the locker room. He didn’t play after returning to the bench, but Dutcher said he probably could have if the game had not been out of hand.
San Diego State hosts McNeese State on Friday.
Arizona State hosts Northern Arizona on Friday.