Sometimes it takes a game or two to find a rhythm. For Arizona State, it took 45 minutes before the Sun Devils pulled away from Cal State Fullerton in double overtime, winning 102-94. Arizona State started slowly, scoring just two points in the first five minutes of the night, but finished strong scoring 13 points in the final five minutes of the night, in that second overtime.
The Sun Devils and Bobby Hurley had four new starters in game one. This is an adjustment period, with coach Hurley figuring out his rotation. They ran with three guards, a forward and a center/power forward last season. When the Devils were not hitting their deep shots, they struggled, and rebounding was a huge issue for them.
ASU has size now. The Sun Devils ran with two guards, two forwards and a center for most of the game, controlling the boards against CSUF. ASU had 20 offensive rebounds, five from De’Quon Lake and four from Zylan Cheatham, on their way 19 second chance points.
ASU also has a potential offensive star of the likes it hasn’t seen in some time with Luguentz Dort. The four-star recruit showed a lot of versatility in his debut, and rebounded from a poor first half to lead the Sun Devils in scoring. In double overtime, Dort’s energy and ability to get to the basket largely contributed to Arizona State’s finishing off of Cal State Fullerton. He didn’t have the cleanest game, shooting just 9-22 with four turnovers, but he did impress by scoring from all three levels. Plus, he broke the school’s record for most points in a debut by a freshman with 28.
The shooting was rough early. In the first half, ASU shot 33 percent from the field and missed its first nine attempts, but their defense kept them close. In the second half, the team shot 6-10 from deep. Five different Devils made threes, not including Remy Martin who made 37 percent of his attempts last season. Don’t forget deep threat Elias Valtonen was sparingly used and could be another shooting option off the bench.
Weird Stat: ASU shot better from three than at the free throw line during the second half. The team did a great job of getting to the line with 44(!) attempts, but shot under 60 percent. Dort went just 7-13 from the charity stripe, as did Cheatham. This was the main reason why ASU struggled to pull away from CSUF, despite having huge advantages elsewhere.
The depth was evident in game one and the Devils were able to stick together and pull out a hard-fought 102-94 win against a 2018 NCAA Tournament squad. It wasn’t a performance that Hurley would like duplicated, especially on defense and at the line, but a win is a win. Luckily, ASU has a few more games to get into a groove before they take on their first ranked opponent of the year, November 19 against Mississippi State. Until then, the Sun Devils play McNeese State, Long Beach State and San Francisco.
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