No. 20 ASU takes care of business against San Francisco
By TJ Mathewson // Men’s Basketball Beat Writer for Blaze Sports
TEMPE, Ariz. — This game had all the makings of a potential letdown game for ASU.
Coming off of an impressive performance in the Continental Tire invitational with wins over Kansas State and then No. 15 Xavier, ASU entered the night ranked No. 20 in the AP Poll, their first time being ranked since the James Harden Era back in 2009.
Their opponent, University of San Francisco, hadn’t beaten ASU since 1977 and came into game with a middling 3-2 record.
ASU had none of that letdown talk, beating USF 75-57 and improving to 7-0 on the season.
“You are always concerned about this game, because of the layoff and the performance we had last weekend,” Hurley said. “I gave my team a little bit of a breather this week, I’m not completely surprised that we didn’t play at our best.”
It was not the prettiest performance, both teams were very sloppy with turnovers, fouls and anything resembling offense.
“At this level, you aren’t always going to play your best level on offense,” ASU coach Bobby Hurley said. “You have got to be able to rely on the energy you play with on both ends of the floor.”
This is a Sun Devils team that came into the game averaging over 95 points a game, so offensive struggles were not something they were familiar with so far this season.
ASU responded to the lack of offense with stifling defense, holding USF to 29% shooting from the field and forcing the Dons to shoot 40 of their 63 shots from three.
Redshirt freshman Romello White recorded his third double-double of the season, leading the team with 16 points and collecting 13 rebounds.
“His physical rebounding takes pressure off of the guards,” Hurley said. “When the guards drive in and his man has to go contest it, it leaves him free to get the rebound (and second-chance points).”
The only gripe Hurley had with White was his continued struggles from the line. White only shot 8/16 on free throws on the night.
“He will be shooting a few more free throws this coming week,” Hurley said.
ASU jumped out to a 31-10 lead late in the first half and then hit cruise control for the rest of the game.
Part of the sloppy offense was the pace of the game, with USF getting called for 30 fouls on the night opposed to 16 for ASU, preventing either team to get in any sort of offensive rhythm.
Three different USF players ended up fouling out.
“I thought the game was a little choppy with the amount of fouls called,” Hurley said on how the fouls affected the game. “(We) gutted it out down there.”
“I actually kind of like it, it’s going help me work on my free throws,” White said on the fouls.
The lone bright spot for the Dons was Jordan Ratinho, leading all scorers with 20 points on 6/16 shooting.
Two-time reigning Pac-12 Player of the Week Tra Holder started slow with only two points in the first half, but bounced back in the second half to end with 15 points on 3/10 shooting.
“I’m sure (Tra) was public enemy #1 coming into this game,” Hurley said on Holder’s performance. “Other guys were able to step up in the second half.”
ASU ended up with five different players in double figures in scoring.
“It’s good for everybody, it’s good for the morale of the team,” Hurley said of his team’s balanced defensive effort. “We still scored 75 even though we didn’t play our best on offense.”
ASU hits the road on Friday to take on St. Johns in LA before heading to Lawrence on Sunday to take on the Kansas Jayhawks.
TJ Mathewson is a beat writer for Blaze Sports covering ASU Men’s Basketball. You can reach out to him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow TJ on Twitter @TJM5518