In what has become an alarming trend, the Arizona State Men’s Basketball team started off sluggish at home on Wednesday night against the Arkansas-Pine Bluff Golden Lions but finished in grand fashion to reach 5-1 for the fourth time in 12 years and the fifth time in 18 seasons.
In Wednesday night’s game, it was senior Carrick Felix who eventually put the Sun Devils on the board with five-straight points after the Devils missed their first five shots, four of them from three-point territory.
Felix ended the game with 21 points, his seventh 20-point game in his career and his second this season. He also finished with six rebounds, four assists, two blocks and two steals.
Arizona State managed only 27 points in the first half with Felix scoring 12 of them. The Sun Devils hit a mere 7-of-23 from the field with 3-of-12 coming from beyond the arc.
The biggest surprise was the NCAA’s leading freshman scorer, Jahii Carson. Carson had only two points in the first half, off of 1-of-5 shooting from the field with 0-for-3 from three-point land. The nation’s leading blocker, Jordan Bachynski had only recorded one block before the intermission.
That would all change in the second half when the Sun Devils caught fire and went on a 17-2 run with just under 10 minutes remaining.
The big stars of the second half were Jonathan Gilling with 11 points on 4-of-6 shooting from the field, with 3-of-5 from long range. Felix added another nine points on 4-of-5 shooting, and Eric Gordon hit two big three-pointers as well.
Checking back on Carson and Bachynski, it seems as if they had an epiphany in the locker room at halftime. Carson, who didn’t visit the free throw line in the first half was able to hit all four shots from the charity stripe and drained a three-ball as well.
Carson still leads all Sun Devil scorers through six games with 114 points and averages 19.0 per game. He also leads the team in assists with 33 and averages 5.5 per game. His 53 free-throw attempts and 72 field-goal attempts are also tops for the Sun Devils.
With six blocks added to Bachynski’s career total, his 93 blocks has moved him into a tie for third place on the Sun Devils all-time list with Kurt Nimphius, who played from 1976-1980. Bachynski leads the team in field-goal percentage—hitting 25-of-41 for .610—and offensive rebounds with 13.
Carrick Felix leads the team in three-point percentage with 11-of-23 for .478 and steals with 14. He is second in scoring with 92 points, averaging 15.3 per game.
Jonathan Gilling leads all Sun Devils in minutes played, with a 35.7 average, and leads in free-throw percentage with .833 and total rebounds with 53, averaging 8.8 per game.
Filling out the starting rotation is Eric Gordon, who has been overshadowed by sixth man Chris Colvin through the first six games. Gordon averages 7.5 points per games compared to Colvin’s 8.8. Gordon has pulled down 21 total rebounds, averaging 3.5 per game—compared to Colvin’s 25 boards and 4.2 per game average. Gordon does lead Colvin in assists (14-13) and steals (11-9).
The next game up for the Sun Devils is the 5-1 Sacramento State Hornets. The Hornets are looking for their first ever 6-1 start, including big wins on the road at Central Arkansas and over the Devils’ Pac-12 foe, the Utah Utes.
The Hornets are led by senior forward John Dickson, who averages 17.3 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. Sophomore guard Dylan Garrity, coming off being named the Big Sky Freshman of the Year, is also contributing 15.2 points and 3.7 assists per game along with an amazing 31-of-32 from the charity stripe. The sharp-shooter also leads the team in field-goal and three-point percentages.
The Sun Devils have struggled in the the first half in three of the last four games and in the second half in two of their first three games. Coach Sendek needs to revisit the games against Florida A&M and Arkansas when they scored 40 or more points in both halves. This is the type of consistency that is needed if the Sun Devils are to compete or at least stay out of the cellar in the ultra-competitive Pac-12 Conference.