Displaying their new run and gun offense in near mid-season form, the Arizona State mens' basketball team proved to be too much for Grand Canyon on Saturday night, cruising to a 89-69 victory. Although it was merely an exhibition game, the atmosphere was Final Four-like on a night in which GCU debuted their beautiful new arena.
"It was a high-energy game," head coach Herb Sendek said. "Guys on both teams really competed."
Despite a sell out crowd surrounding the court in a sea of purple that included a quite a few morph suits, some body paint and even a giant banana costume or two, the extreme display of fanfare proved to not be a distraction for Trent Lockett and company.
The Devils began by pushing the ball straight from the tip, with a lineup that consisted of Chris Colvin, Keala King, Trent Lockett, Kyle Cain and Ruslan Pateev. Colvin and the other guards looked to Pateev early and often as Grand Canyon had no one who could even relatively match up with the 7'0" big man. And Pateev rewarded them, going 2-3 from the field before running into some foul trouble.
That was the theme of the first half though for Arizona State. An overdose of fouls and "and ones" allowed the Lopes to hang in the game 37-31, overshadowing an improved defense effort from the Devils that saw them hold GCU to 28.6% from the field and 14.3% behind the arc.
"We fouled entirely too much," Sendek said. "It just seemed every time I looked they were at the free throw line."
Sophomore swingman Keala King was easily the first-half standout, closing out the period with a put back buzzer beater, finishing the first act with an impressive stat-line of nine points, seven rebounds and four assists (all team-highs).
"We have [Lockett] as a leader, we have [Cain] as a leader so I just want to help them out," King said.
After coming out of the locker room though, it wasn't nearly as close of a competition as Arizona State proved to be the far more well-conditioned team. Almost every other possession seemed like a fast break for the Devils and they had no problem converting, stroking their shots from the field to the tune of 73.1% (19-26) in the second half. At the point, the whole offense seemed to open up, allowing ASU to hit 50% of their shots behind the arc.
"I thought we did a better job of pushing and getting some things in transition [in the second half]," Sendek said. "Some guys stepped up and made some nice plays."
One of those guys was six-foot-two transfer Chris Colvin, who carried over his excellent play from ASU's scrimmage two weeks ago. Colvin dished out a team-high seven assists while showing impressive control of the offensive system and adding 15 points of his own (tied for team high with King and Lockett).
"He played with a lot of confidence," Sendek said. "He's still learning our system, especially on the defensive end and that's going to take some time. But all in all, clearly he still had a good game."
"I feel comfortable," Colvin said about leading the attack. "I like [our] system. I like to get up and down [the court]. That's something I've done all my life."
Surprisingly enough, two unexpected players, Lockett and King, lead the team in rebounding with ten boards each.
"We do have some big strong guards," Sendek said. "They have to rebound for us. Everyone has to take ownership on the glass."
The Devils did do a good job in the category, out-rebounding the Lopes 42-29. But probably the most impressive stat of the night was the fact that five Devils finished in double figures (Lockett, King, Colvin, Pateev and forward Carrick Felix).
"We're going to have to be a team on both ends of the floor," Sendek said. "We're going to have to make each other better and help each other score. I thought we did that better in the second half."
Sendek ended his post game interview giving the usual coach talk when addressing next Friday's home opener against Montana State saying the team "still has a lot of work to do."
But when Saturday's star's Colvin and King were asked if they'd be ready for the first game that actually counts, both responded almost instinctively: "yes sir."
- Grand Canyon Head Coach and former ASU assistant Russ Pennell said he knew the team would show a new willingness to run after meeting with Sendek for coffee on a bi-weekly basis over the summer. Pennell- "I tried to convince my team they would do that but I don't think they believed me."
- One number that did get lost in the Devils blow out win was their 19 turnovers. That will fly against D-II schools but not against Pac-12 opponents.
- Jordan Bachynski didn't see the court until Pateev and Cain began to rack up the personal fouls. Once he did see some playing time, he took advantage of it, totaling eight points, four rebounds, one block and two important charges in 14 sporadic minutes.
- Forward Kyle Cain had the most trouble with the referee's whistle tonight, logging only 12 minutes and four points despite the start due to fouls piling up.
- Sendek says the team should hear about freshman guard Jahii Carson's academic availability "early next week."
- In other freshman news, Jonathan Gilling from Denmark surprisingly played nine minutes tonight going 2-3 from the field with a three. It looks as if Sendek plans to have him in the rotation early despite his lack of collegiate experience.