ASU basketball took down No. 1 Kansas Saturday, improving the Sun Devils’ record to 9-2. It was a good preview of future matchups against highly-touted players.
With the exception of a perfect record, Arizona State’s 2018-19 season has been strikingly reminiscent of the prior year. At least so far.
ASU has once again bolted out of the gates, and it already has two wins against ranked opponents – Mississippi State and Kansas. The latter was a come-from-behind win on Saturday with a final score of 80-76.
Kansas, which entered Wells Fargo Arena ranked No. 1 in the AP Poll, is filled with former top recruits and likely NBA prospects. Some of these include Dedric Lawson, Lagerald Vick and Udoka Azubuike (did not play).
Of those aforementioned stars, it was Lawson who went off. The junior forward scored 30 points on 12-of-15 shooting, leading the Jayhawks in scoring and field-goal percentage.
But this high-scoring performance didn’t really come as a surprise. In eight of Kansas’ 11 games this season, he has scored 20 or more points.
Throughout the game, Lawson had no trouble finding ways to score. Whether in the low post or from outside, Lawson was near unstoppable, even when ASU attempted to double team him in the second half.
For the majority of the game, Lawson was primarily guarded by Romello White. Though allowing 30 points to an individual is never the goal, it wasn’t White’s fault, for the most part.
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Lawson is just so versatile, and with every adjustment head coach Bobby Hurley made, Lawson had an answer.
On the offensive end, White quietly did well. He finished the game with 11 points and did a nice job of initiating contact, shooting nine free throws.
Despite finishing in double figures, Vick was held mostly in check by freshman Luguentz Dort. Finishing with 14 points, Vick struggled from the field, making just five of his 16 attempts.
Likewise, Vick did his part in limiting Dort — one of the nation’s leading scorers. Despite averaging over 19 points per game, Dort shot just 3-of-14 from the field with 13 points.
The combination of Vick’s exemplary defense and a seemingly off night for Dort kept him from leading the Sun Devils in points.
But ASU made up for that in other ways.
Five of the eight Sun Devils who entered the game finished in double figures. This is an impressive feat considering Kansas is among the deepest squads in college basketball.
Though Kansas is the highest-ranked team ASU has faced all season, this wasn’t the Sun Devils’ first game facing star power.
Also squaring off against Mississippi State, Nevada and Vanderbilt, Arizona State has already dealt with some of the nation’s top players. This includes, but is not limited to, Quinndary Weatherspoon (MSU), Jordan Caroline (Nevada), Caleb Martin (Nevada) and Simisola Shittu.
The results against those players were mixed. Weatherspoon and Shittu both struggled against the Sun Devils, while the Nevada duo excelled.
Games like those and Saturday’s prepare Arizona State for what’s ahead: Pac-12 play.
Even though the Pac-12 has been marginal through the first few weeks of the season, there’s no denying the talented players spread across the league. Some of the most notable players in the conference are Oregon’s Bol Bol, Washington State’s Robert Franks and Oregon State’s Tres Tinkle.
Sure, this is a very brief litany of a few great players in a talented league. The list extends far past just those three. That said, all three of the above-mentioned players are different from one another and can attack in unique ways.
A little over a week remains until ASU’s Pac-12 opener; that is when the Sun Devils host Utah on Jan. 3.
In a league that has shown its vulnerability in the young season, ASU’s experience against star players could prove beneficial come conference play.