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Washington State Vs. Arizona State Final: Improved Ball Handling Key In Big Win Over Cougars

One game removed from their least impressive shooting performance of the season, the Sun Devils were on fire from the field for stretches Saturday, securing a 71-67 win over the Washington State Cougars at home.

Brock Motum did all he could for WSU with a career-high 34 points but Arizona State was able to pull it out thanks to a balanced effort with five players scoring at least nine points.

"It definitely was a big win for us," said Carrick Felix, who had a team-high 20 points. "We all executed, played together and shared the ball."

Felix was also quick to point out the following stat: for the first time all season, the Devils didn't lead the box score in turnovers (16 compared to Washington State's 18). Arizona State also managed to total 18 assists with seven coming from Jonathan Gilling to set a new career-high.

"I thought the key for us was our movement of the ball," said head coach Herb Sendek. "I loved the patience and the discipline that we're growing on offense."

With Arizona State spreading the court with passes, the Sun Devils got some of their most open looks of the season. And Arizona State took advantage of almost every single one, shooting as high as 72.2% from the field with a little over six minutes remaining in the first half.

"We made each other better throughout the game, especially with some terrific possessions in the first half," Sendek said.

This rhythm continued in the second half thanks largely in part to Chris Colvin, who was involved in Arizona State's first nine points out of the locker room. The much-maligned point guard had one of his finest games of the season, showing Wells Fargo Arena what he's truly capable of with a career-high 16 points along with six rebounds and four assists.

"Trent went down and I knew it was either step up or move on," Colvin said. "I chose to step up."

"[Colvin] arguably played his best game as a Sun Devil," Sendek said. "He's settling in and starting to get more comfortable in what we're doing."

Colvin's performance wasn't without at least one blemish though. He had a crucial five second violation (which Sendek would later take the blame for) in the final minute that managed to give fans a scare. But Kyle Cain was able to nab a crucial steal on the other end that ultimately sealed the victory for Arizona State.

Next up for the Sun Devils is another California road trip where they'll look to continue their momentum into a 7:00 PM matchup against Stanford (15-5) on Thursday. But for now, it's difficult for the Sun Devils not to get caught up in their first win without their leader, Trent Lockett.

"This group has been through a great deal," Sendek said. "It's gratifying on a day like today where they finally get some taste of reward for all of their efforts and perseverance."

Other Game Notes:

  • Jordan Bachynski was plugged into the starting lineup tonight and responded by have his third straight solid game. Arizona State's surging center made all five of his shots for a career-high 11 points, two rebounds and two blocks in seventeen minutes. Although he was in foul trouble the entire contest and eventually ended up fouling out, Sendek says fans might continue to see more of J.B. in the starting five: "Jordan started because he earned it...the way Jordan has played against Utah, Washington and Washington State, he's really coming on."
  • For the fourth straight game, Chanse Creekmur was held scoreless. Although he didn't attempt a shot in this one, Creekmur did have two big steals and played solid defense in his 21 minutes.
  • With 38 minutes each, this marks the second straight game that Colvin and Gilling have played almost the entire 40 minutes. It will be interesting to see if Lockett's return cuts into their playing time or if Sendek has been impressed enough to permanently expand their roles.