ASU puts the country on notice after two strong wins at the Continental Tire Invitational
By Andrew Bell // Men’s Basketball Beat Writer for Blaze Sports
Game 1: Kansas State
The ASU men’s basketball team upended the Kansas State Wildcats 92-90 in a highly competitive opening round matchup of the Continental Tire Invitational on Thursday night in Las Vegas.
Both teams finished the game shooting over 50 percent from the field in a high-octane display of offense.
ASU senior guard Kodi Justice finished the game with 28 points on 9-10 shooting in an electric performance that helped spur the Sun Devils to victory. The 28-point surge marked a new career-high for the senior, and 19 of Justice’s 28 points came in the second half.
As for KSU, junior guard Barry Brown put up 27 points while shooting 10-19 from the field, and junior guard Kamau Stokes also put up 23 points for the Wildcats.
KSU shot 63 percent in the first half, but only led ASU by two points heading into the locker room. The Sun Devils were able to match KSU’s potent offense by shooting 52 percent from the field.
Despite a highly contested offensive outburst between both teams, ASU was able to take advantage in one specific area in the second half–the free throw line.
ASU had 44 free throw attempts (29-44 FT’s) while KSU got to the charity stripe nine times. The game was tightly officiated and ASU was able to take advantage of the disparity in fouls.
KSU sophomore forwards Makol Mawien and Xavier Sneed both fouled out, and that aided in helping the Sun Devil front line.
ASU redshirt freshman forward Romello White finished the game with 19 points and six rebounds despite a slow start in the first half, while junior forward De’Quon Lake put up another solid performance, yielding 11 points and 10 rebounds en route to a double-double.
The two Sun Devil big men were able to take advantage of the depleted KSU front court in the second half, and it paid dividends for ASU.
After nearly blowing a late lead and missing three free throws to ice the game away, ASU was able to make multiple defensive stands in the closing moments of the game, and the Sun Devils were able to shut the door on K-State.
Prior to Thursday, Kansas State was undefeated on the season, and the Wildcats are coming off of a trip to the NCAA tournament.
The win on Thanksgiving was ASU’s fifth straight game with 90 points or more.
Game 2: Xavier
Following ASU’s 92-90 win over Kansas State on Thursday, the Sun Devils returned right back to action in the championship game of the Continental Tire Invitational on Friday, and ASU went on to defeat the No. 15 Xavier Musketeers 102-86 in convincing fashion.
At one point in the first half, ASU trailed Xavier by 15 points. With their backs against the wall against an elite opponent, the Sun Devils stormed back to cut the Xavier lead to two points just before the first half ended.
ASU held the X-men without a field goal for the last 3:16 of the first half, and the Sun Devils ramped up their defensive intensity.
Coming out of the locker room in the second half, ASU grabbed control of the game and never looked back.
Senior guards Shannon Evans II, Kodi Justice and Tra Holder combined for 78 of ASU’s 102 points, and freshman guard Remy Martin came up with 13 points of his own.
The backcourt was too much to handle for Xavier, and ASU pushed its lead to as far as 20 points in the second half.
As for individual performances, Holder dropped 40 points in 37 minutes played in yet another fantastic outing for the senior point guard. The 40-point explosion marked a new career-high for Holder, just days after he recorded 35 points against UC Irvine.
On defense, Martin and Evans II were able to keep Xavier senior guard Trevon Bluiett in check, as the senior finished the game with 11 points just a day after he came up with 20 points against George Washington.
As for the frontcourt, the ASU front line was able to make solid contributions despite facing foul trouble throughout the game.
Lake, White and redshirt freshman forward Vitaliy Shibel all had four fouls in the second half, but the front line was able to stay discipline and contribute in the victory. Lake and White combined for 11 points and 13 rebounds in the win.
Among the standouts for Xavier, senior guard J.P. Macura finished the game with 23 points on 7-11 shooting to lead the Musketeers in scoring.
Despite the solid performance for the senior guard, ASU proved to be too much to handle for a Xavier team that reached the Elite Eight last season.
ASU notched its sixth consecutive game with 90 points or more, and Friday’s win marked the first time that ASU has reached triple digits in scoring this season.
With back-to-back wins against noble opponents, ASU made a statement in Las Vegas over the weekend, and there is almost no doubt that the Sun Devils will be in the NCAA top-25 rankings come next week.
Following the impressive weekend in the sin city, ASU will now have a short hiatus before returning to action on Dec. 2, when they host the University of San Francisco at Wells Fargo Arena.
Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. MST on the Blaze Sports Mixlr with Andrew Bell and Rob Werner on the call.
Andrew Bell is one of Blaze Radio’s beat writers for ASU Men’s Basketball. You can reach out to him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewBell7 .