ASU moves to 4-0 on the season, defeat UC Irvine, 99-78
By Andrew Bell // Men’s Basketball Beat Writer for Blaze Sports
TEMPE, AZ — The ASU men’s basketball team is 4-0 to start its season for the first time since 2014. The 2013-14 team went on to go 21-12, and earn a birth to the NCAA tournament.
ASU defeated UC Irvine, 99-78, at home on Sunday afternoon. The Sun Devils shot 61 percent from the field (30-49 FG’s), and put up their fourth straight game with 90 points or more.
“It was a good test for us,” ASU head coach Bobby Hurley said. “I love the way we played offensively today, both getting in the lane and scoring.”
UC Irvine is a favorite to win the Big West Conference and earn a bid to the NCAA tournament. The Anteaters shot 46 percent from the field in a solid offensive performance, but they were unable to halt ASU’s offense and senior guard Tra Holder.
Holder finished the game with a new career-high in points with 35, and he showcased his talents with a variety of dazzling offensive displays. The 35-point outburst was Holder’s first career game with 30 points or more.
“That was one of the better performances that I have seen from a player that I have coached in my young career,” Hurley said.
Perhaps even more impressive than Holder’s point total was his efficiency. Holder was 13-15 from the field, and 6-7 from beyond the arc. The senior point guard finished the game with five assists and two rebounds in the victory.
“It kind of felt good every time I shot … I just give credit to my teammates,” Holder said. “They were looking for me, and I am just happy that I have those guys on my side.”
Four ASU starters finished the game in double figures. Senior guards Shannon Evans II and Kodi Justice combined for 40 points, while redshirt freshman forward Romello White tallied 14 points and 11 rebounds to pick up his second double-double in just three games.
The win was a complete team effort, and ASU was in harmony on the offensive end for much of the afternoon.
“We have a lot of options out there,” Hurley said. “We try to get the ball moving and get everyone involved, and get everyone feeling like they are a part of the offense.”
UC Irvine has a variety of players on the inside that can pose threats for opponents. The team likes to work through its big men, and the Anteaters had 15 offensive rebounds against ASU. However, the Sun Devils forced 19 UCI turnovers and they were able to get out in transition.
“When we rebound, we can push and score early,” Hurley said. “We have that ability. We have guys that can get lost in transition, and make a three. When it was 11 or 12 (point lead), we really pushed it out to 20 really fast, and got some stops. Our defense played better in that stretch.”
Sophomore forward Tommy Rutherford led the Anteaters in scoring with 15 points.
However, ASU would control the game throughout, and the Sun Devils rolled against UC Irvine in yet another stellar performance early in the season.
Up next, ASU will take on Kansas State on Thanksgiving day in Las Vegas as a part of the Continental Tire Invitational. Kansas State is currently 3-0, and they are coming off of a year in which they reached the NCAA tournament.
With three wins in one week, and four straight wins on its home floor, ASU will take to the road for the first time this season against some tough competition.
“In non-conference, you want to protect your house because when conference comes, a lot of teams are going to be eager to get those wins on the road because it means a lot for postseason play, ” Holder said. “We try to protect our house, and take it one game at a time.
Andrew Bell is one of Blaze Radio’s beat writers for ASU Men’s Basketball. You can reach out to him at email@example.com or follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewBell7 .