Just two years removed from a Sweet 16 appearance, no one on the Arizona State Sun Devils basketball team was going to take the Cornell Big Red for granted. And it was good that they didn't. A poor first half from the field (.276) gave Big Red the halftime lead. If not for a huge transition in the second half, ASU probably would have lost this game.
"We usually come out to a great tipoff," freshman point guard Jahii Carson said following the game. "We are usually energized. I don't know what happened today. I know guys were missing a lot of shots that they normally make, but they were good shots."
"I thought we were really quick to settle," Coach Sendek said of his team's shot selection after the game. "I think we had too many possessions where we took a shot on one, maybe two passes, sometimes no passes. A disproportionately high number of our shots came from three. I don't necessarily think it was because they were giving us the three."
The Devils did appear to be open on many of their three-point field attempts, but a 3-18 start from behind the arc showed that they simply couldn't put the ball in the basket. ASU was on pace to shoot 36 threes in the game at the half, but the Devils came out in the second half looking much more methodical, driving the lane and pushing the ball up the floor. Much of this was due to how many turnovers they were able to cause. The 23 turnovers Cornell surrendered was the 4th most by any team during the Herb Sendek era.
A buzzer beating three to end the first half really ended the Devils' sluggishness, as they came out of the locker room looking refreshed and relaxed to begin the second period.
"Jahii really gave us momentum with the 3 pointer going into the break," Sendek said. "Then our guys really spring-boarded from there."
The Devils only shot nine more 3 pointers for the rest of the game, making five of them. This allowed Arizona State to finally break away from Cornell, gaining a sizable lead towards the end of the game. In the meantime, ASU tied a high from last season with 27 3-pointers attempted.
"I feel good about it," Sendek said of his team's 3-0 start to the season. "I think it's been a great start for us. We obviously face a great challenge this weekend. It's going to be perfectly timed for our team, it's going to tell us some more about ourselves. But I think we have got out from the gates exactly the way we wanted to."
This victory marked the 20th time the Sun Devils have made a comeback after trailing at halftime since Sendek became the coach. ASU probably wishes they didn't have to come back, but they'll take the big win heading into Las Vegas to play Arkansas this weekend.