The Arizona State Sun Devil basketball team opened the 2012-2013 season with an easy 79-64 win over the Central Arkansas Bears Saturday evening.
Their opponent may not have been of the highest caliber but those in attendance still got a pretty good grasp of what to expect from head coach Herb Sendek and his players this year. Here are some observations from the Devils season-opening victory:
- Jahii Carson (15 points, five assists) and Evan Gordon (14 points, eight rebounds) proved why they'll be a formidable backcourt all season long but it wasn't that pretty early on. Both players looked like they had something to prove in the beginning as they were forcing some unfavorable shots. Once they got their act together though this whole team seemed to click as evidenced by their 16-0 run to close out the first half. I loved what I saw from Gordon defensively (five steals) and Carson was solid too even though he was a bit too aggressive at times. Regardless, ASU's guards are clearly the team's strength, especially with this next gentlemen coming off the bench.
- With the way Chris Colvin (11 points, five assists) played Saturday, I'm beginning to think that the Devils might just have the most versatile backup guard in all of the Pac-12. Colvin's penetration skills looked on par with Carson's and his court vision might have been even better. Colvin looked natural at both the point and two-guard when he was on the court with Carson which should strengthen Sendek's already vast lineup creativity. If he could only improve his free throw shooting (3-for-6) I might go as far as to say that ASU won't see an offensive dropoff in production when Carson takes a breather.
- Eric Jacobson, the freshman center out of Hamilton, got a surprising amount of playing time at the power forward position with the team lacking a true option at the four. Although his stats may not show it (zero points, one rebound and two assists in 13 minutes), I was encouraged in what he showed Saturday. The 6'10 big man was doing all the little things right (setting tough screens, instinctively shifting on defense, etc.) so fans should expect to see more of him as the season goes on. Jonathan Gilling (11 points, 3-for-7 on threes) and his sleek-shooting ways are much better off at the small forward position and Jacobsen is mobile enough to play next to Jordan Bachynski and Ruslan Pateev.
- Speaking of Bachynski, last year's breakout player had a huge game (17 points, 12 rebounds) but it should have been even more memorable. The biggest player in the Bears' lineup for most of the game was 6'7 so the Devils should have been feeding it to him all day. Bachynski was effecient with his chances (8-for-10 shooting) but most of his attempts were on cleanup duty. Bachysnki looked fluid off the pick-and-roll with Carson so I'm hoping to see that implemented more often. That's the least this team can do for him with all the transition buckets they got from his defensive stops (team-record nine blocks).
- Although he didn't have his best game, I think Carrick Felix (seven points, 11 rebounds) set the tone for this team with his hustle. Central Arkansas was a scrappy team but the Devils brought the same intensity on both ends of the court from the opening tipoff. Sadly, much of that energy faded as the minutes ticked away so it might have just been some first game adrenaline. My major complaint would be their lack of urgency in the rebounding department against a much smaller lineup. ASU was out of place for many of the Bears 20 offensive rebound but some of that can be attributed to some lucky bounces. Still, their board work should be an area of emphasis this week in practice. The Devils should have out-rebounded this team by 11 not one.
- Shot selection (43.5% shooting) was not ASU's forte either. Much like last year, the Devils looked uncomfortable in their half-court offense as most of their players seemed unable to create their own shots. I get that this team likes to run but that will just play into the hands of teams like Arizona and UCLA. Obviously a lot of their struggles can be attributed to the fact that this is the earliest opener in program history yet I have to admit I was expecting more with the guards they have on their roster. The Devils were too patient when they didn't need to be and were forcing things when they could have afforded to step back. Then again, I guess you can't complain too much about offensive production when you put up 79 points even with a lackluster final five minutes.