ASU Basketball: Strong second half powers #3 ASU to 11th straight victory

LAWRENCE, KS - DECEMBER 10: Dedric Lawson
LAWRENCE, KS - DECEMBER 10: Dedric Lawson /

A 19-2 run over a five-minute span helped ASU basketball improve to 11-0 on the season with a win against Longwood on Tuesday night.

On a normal night, the final score between the Sun Devils and the Lancers would’ve told you all you needed to know about how the game went for both teams.

Tuesday night was not one of those nights.

After leading by just five points at halftime, the Sun Devil offense erupted in the opening minutes of the second half, using a full-court press to spark a 19-2 run that built a 60-31 point spread throughout the whole half.

“I was very pleased with the win and the response [to the first half,]” head coach Bobby Hurley said. “How we played the second half was outstanding.”

The Sun Devils came into Tuesday night’s matchup with the nation’s seventh-best scoring offense, averaging 90.2 points per game while shooting 51 percent from the floor and 41 percent from the three-point line.

By those numbers, it seemed questionable that Longwood would scheme a 2-3 zone against the Devils in the opening minutes.

Inexplicably, it worked for quite some time.

Throughout the first five minutes of the first half, the Sun Devils went surprisingly cold with several open looks, as sharp-shooting guards Kodi Justice and Shannon Evans combined for two three-point makes on 12 attempts. As a team, the Sun Devils shot 33 percent at the half while converting just 27 percent of their looks from the three-point line.

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Typically, these numbers would indicate a huge deficit on the opposing end, a fact that coach Hurley shouldered a blunt of the blame for.

“We’re fortunate that we played that first half against this opponent,” said Hurley. “I didn’t create enough of an edge to start this game, and I have to do a better job getting us ready to play.”

The first half wasn’t all disappointing, however, as sophomore transfer Mickey Mitchell provided a huge boost off the bench in the second home game of his Sun Devil career. Mitchell’s presence was key in finding early energy, as he constantly looked to penetrate the zone while staying active and deflecting passes on the defensive side of the ball.

Hurley quickly noticed, and Mitchell’s play was well enough to help slide himself into the starting rotation in the second half.

“They were going deep in the shot clock, and it was becoming a half-court grind game,” Hurley acknowledged. “That’s not who we are, and moving forward, we [may] sprinkle [him] in to create tempo.

Like Sunday’s game against Vanderbilt, the Sun Devils found their tempo in the second half, as they executed a series of full-court presses to force a total of 15 Longwood turnovers. In just under six minutes, the Sun Devils ballooned their previously-thin cushion to 22 points, and a game that looked to be wire-to-wire quickly turned into a drubbing.

Mitchell’s presence on the floor continued to be essential to ASU’s success, as he lit up Wells Fargo Arena with a reverse slam and a blocked shot that might give him two top plays on SportsCenter later tonight.

For Mitchell, however, he’s all about making plays that could change the outcome and make a difference in a close game.

“If I see [a ball] on the ground, I’m going to get it,” said Mitchell. “If I see a shot I can block, I’m going to try to do it. It’s just in my nature.”

With the win, the Sun Devils extend their record-setting start to 11 straight victories with one more non-conference battle against Pacific on Friday night.

Although they don’t want to mention it yet, the whole state of Arizona is patiently waiting for the in-state battle between the Sun Devils and Arizona Wildcats on Dec. 30, a game that will likely be pivotal to deciding will take the Pac-12 title this season.

With that game rising in the not-so-distant future, Hurley is already eager to get his guys back to prepare on the practice floor.

“We have to keep improving and keep getting better,” Hurley affirmed. “The success of this team will come as we get to Pac-12 and see where we stand there.”

Next: ASU Basketball: Devils erase 13-point deficit, ride huge second half to win over Vanderbilt

The Sun Devils will look to cap-off their rigid non-conference slate with a perfect 12-0 record as they take on the Pacific Tigers on Friday afternoon. The game will tip off at 1 p.m. MST and can be viewed on Pac-12 Network.

All quotes in this article were obtained firsthand by Devils in Detail unless otherwise noted.