The Arizona State Sun Devils are now 4-0 on the year after their impressive 83-68 win Friday evening over a solid Arkansas Razorbacks squad in the semifinals of the Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational.
With the victory, the Devils are undefeated through their first four games of the season for only the fourth time in the last 26 seasons. ASU now awaits the winner of No. 14 Creighton and Wisconsin for the finals of the tournament Saturday but before we get too ahead of ourselves, let's look at exactly how the Devils' were able to down the Razorbacks:
- After looking like he might be no more than a complimentary player through the Devils' first three games, SF Carrick Felix dominated Friday, compiling a career-high 24 points along with four rebounds and two assists. It was refreshing to see the senior leader take over for once in one of the hottest shooting performances I've seen from an ASU basketball player in the past couple of seasons (8-for-10 from the field, 4-for-4 from three). Obviously the team can't count on this from a game-to-game basis but if Felix can occasionally find a rhythm like he did Friday, the Devils' starting lineup will be nearly impossible to stop.
- Friday was just another day at the office for Jordan Bachynski (14 points, 13 rebounds, four blocks) who is quickly shaping up to be one of the most intimidating centers in all the country. But there was another man who logged the same number of rebounds as J.B. despite having seven less inches of height to work with: Jonathan Gilling. With the team lacking a true power forward, Gilling has been a vacuum when it comes to rebounding this season, already bringing in 41 through four games after having just 54 his entire freshman year. The sophomore swingman is becoming a true, well-rounded player in his second year and he was a huge reason that the Devils were +9 against a scrappy Razorbacks team on the boards.The Devils haven't exactly faced the largest lineups this year but I'm beginning to think that Gilling might not have been kidding after all when he joked about channeling his inner Kevin Love.
- While the bench didn't contribute much offensively (12 points overall), I still liked what I saw from this team defensively as a whole. Although the Devils still technically lost the turnover battle (12 to 11), that statistic should be very encouraging considering how aggressive Arkansas can be at times and how sloppy ASU was with the ball last year. Eric Jacobsen and Chris Colvin have shown the ability to be two of the teams better defenders off the pine and Evan Gordon is already flashing shutdown ability. This Arizona State team owns some rock solid one-on-one defenders, far more than I initially thought. That will come in handy when their streaky offense inevitably goes cold from time-to-time.