The Arizona State Sun Devils (3-0) decimated their third straight opponent, the Idaho State Bengals (1-2), Friday night at Wells Fargo Arena in front of a raucous student section and the hilarious “Curtain of Distraction.”
After a sluggish start that had the teams knotted at 15 at the second media timeout with 11:22 remaining in the first half, freshman guard Chance Murray nailed a three-pointer and the Devils never looked back, taking a 16-point lead into the halftime intermission.
The Sun Devils hit the first four three-point baskets that they attempted but cooled off missing the next nine from beyond the arc. They would finish 12-of-29 on the night hitting 41 percent including a perfect 3-of-3 from super soph Jahii Carson.
After watching ASU’s games up close and personal, here are some takeaways for those that couldn’t make it to Tempe or Wells Fargo Arena.
Jahii Carson Drives This Souped-Up Offense
They are flying higher and moving faster than previous seasons when they failed to be selected to the NCAA tournament. After three games last season, they had a similar 3-0 record but only averaged 80 points a game and their average margin of victory was just over 16 points. This year they are averaging 91.3 points per game and their margin of victory is 33 points.
For the third time in as many games, Jahii Carson was the leading scorer. However, unlike the first two games, this time the honor was not shared with backcourt mate Jermaine Marshall. Carson missed out on the 20-point plateau yet again with 19 points on 6-of-11 shooting. He was equally impressive knocking down 4-of-5 from the charity stripe. He added two assists, two rebounds and a steal for good measure.
Carson now leads the team in scoring with 18.7 points and assists with five per game. Carson is also averaging 29 minutes per game after playing over 37 minutes per game last year. While his minutes are decreasing, his numbers are not.
Herb Sendek Is Mixing Up the Lineup
Head coach Herb Sendek started with the same starting five for the third straight game but allowed 13 players to get court time including senior Jarett Upchurch, who made his first appearance of the season. The biggest surprises coming off the bench are freshman guards Egor Koulechov and Chance Murray.
Murray is averaging 17.3 minutes per game netting seven points, four rebounds and just over two assists per game. Murray is solid from beyond the arc shooting 57 percent, better than his 50-percent shooting from two-point territory.
At 6’5″ and 205 pounds, Koulechov could also play at the small forward position. He is the same size as current starting forward Shaquielle McKissic and is right behind him in scoring with 19 total points to McKissic’s 20.
McKissic does hold a commanding lead over Koulechov in rebounds doubling his output, 18-9. If Koulechov continues his dominant play, he recorded five rebounds and four steals on Friday night, we could see him on the starting roster sooner rather than later.
Senior center Jordan Bachynski has quietly stole the spotlight from the Oscar Robertson Trophy-nominated Carson with his consistent play.
Friday night against Idaho State was no different.
Bachynski became the all-time blocks leader in program history with 194 and has moved up to sixth place in the conference. He added 10 points and 10 boards to notch his third consecutive double-double after only reaching the feat five times in the three seasons prior.
Bachynski led the Pac-12 in blocks last season and finished at No. 5 in the nation averaging 3.5 per game. A Pac-12 All-Defensive Team selection, Bachynski also led the team in field-goal percentage last year and is back in the lead this season hitting 14-of-22 for 63.6 percent. His 11.7 rebounds per game also lead the team by a wide margin.
Jonathan Gilling Needs to Return to Form
Jonathan Gilling is a fan favorite but has evoked more moans than applause in this short season. He is averaging a mere seven points and four rebounds per game—a far cry from his 9.7 points and 6.1 rebounds per game last year.
Gilling has seen a decrease in shooting, averaging only five shot attempts per game, with the bulk of them coming from three-point territory. Gilling has hit 5-of-11 from the outer ring while being nearly perfect (3-of-4) from inside the arc.
Gilling has yet to record a steal when he averaged a steal per game last season. He needs to start hitting from long range with more consistency to regain his confidence. Then his defensive prowess will return and he will be back in the hearts and minds of the Sun Devil faithful in no time.
This Team Is Poised to Make a Deep Run
There are several new faces on Coach Sendek’s roster including two starters in senior guard Jermaine Marshall and senior forward Shaquielle McKissic. The influx of senior leadership combined with the two freshmen, Murray andKoulechov, perfectly complement the core of Carson, Bachynski and Gilling.
Sendek and the players are all well aware of the limited time they have together and will make the most of it leaving their blood, sweat and tears on the court as they strive toward a common goal—the NCAA tournament. Once there, it is an entirely new season where anything can and most of the time, does happen.
The Sun Devils have some tough nonconference road games including their next game at UNLV. Then they will be off to Fullerton, Calif. to face Creighton in the first round of the Wooden Legacy Tournament followed by a game against either College of Charleston or San Diego State. They finish off the nonconference road schedule with a trip to Chicago to face the DePaul Blue Demons who embarrassed the Sun Devils in Tempe last year.
Those games will test their mettle and improve their bonds of brotherhood and teamwork for the long two-month Pac-12 push into March where their dreams will be realized.