After rolling over Wake Forrest then beating themselves in the final seconds of the fifth place game against DePaul, the Sun Devils left the Old Spice Classic in Orlando with a record of 1-2. But with showing real flashes of improvement and the schedule nearing the easiest stretch of the season, it's a real possibility that this Arizona State basketball team could get some momentum going with a solid winning streak before conference play begins. First though, these Devils must win in Tulsa against a team that's proven so far that it doesn't plan on going down without a fight.
The Tulsa Golden Hurricanes (4-4) have been the definition of competitive this season, being outscored by only five points or less in all their losses. They're lead by sophomore guard Jordan Clarkson, who is averaging 19.8 points in his last four starts to go along 4.8 rebounds and 2.4 assists a game for the year. Beyond Clarkson, there are really no stand out scorers. But if there's one thing this team can do it's rebound.
At 29th in the nation with 41 boards a game, Tulsa is anchored by a deep rotation of big men including Kodi Moduka (7.1 rebounds per game), D.J Magley (6.8 per game) and Steven Idelt (5.9 per game). And that's truly what the Golden Hurricanes rely on to win games with no real threat from deep outside of Clarkson (Tulsa has made only 19 threes when you factor out the 24 Clarkson's drained). Just like the Sun Devils too, they have turnover issues galore, averaging 15.5 giveaways a game to only 10.8 assists which means this one could be a sloppy affair.
Key Matchup: Kyle Cain Vs. Kodi Moduka- While Trent Lockett may be leading the team in rebounds with 8.7 a game, the majority of the tough boards come from Cain in the middle. And while he's usually the smallest center on the court at 6'7", he plays far above his size as evident in his 15 rebounds against DePaul. If Cain can limit Tulsa's second chance points, it would certainly go a long way into improving the Devil's chances.
What to watch for: The continued progression of Keala King- This is still hands down Lockett's team but King is making a strong case to be his right hand man as of late, averaging 23 points on 63% shooting to go along with 6.5 rebounds and three assists in the Sun Devil's last two games (which have arguably been two of this team's best). The emergence of a second consistent scoring threat would open up a lot defensively for the rest of the rotation who have been very unpredictable offensively.
Media coverage: Watch them live on the CBS Sports Network at 3 p.m. or listen online here.
Final Prediction: Arizona State 69 - Tulsa 66
This is one the Devils could easily drop if they fall back into the same bad habits but they've showed enough signs as of late to make me think the arrow is pointing up. Jordan Bachynski is going to have to step up big time in the rebound category to take some of the pressure off Cain and Lockett as the rotation is thinning out. As long as their own buckets are falling, Arizona State should have enough to finish the Golden Hurricanes of as they continue their hot defensive streak (limiting opponents to 35.8% shooting throughout their three games in the Old Spice Classic).