Second half surge propels ASU to win over SDSU
By TJ Mathewson // Men’s Basketball Beat Writer for Blaze Sports
TEMPE, AZ — It wasn’t all smooth sailing for Arizona State in a 90-68 win over San Diego State on Tuesday night.
ASU came into the game with only seven scholarship players available due to the injury to freshman forward Kimani Lawrence, who will be out 4-6 weeks with an ankle injury.
At first, it seemed like the lack of bodies was going to hurt the Sun Devils, playing a not-so-ideal first half.
Entering halftime, ASU(2-0) trailed 40-34. They were shooting 35% from the field and were struggling to move the ball, only recording five assists.
SDSU(1-1) was playing a great first half. Forward Max Montana shot 4-of-4 from three for an Aztecs team that had really struggled on offense at times. The size of center Kameron Rooks and forward Malik Pope were both causing huge problems for ASU.
“We challenged them to play better,” coach Bobby Hurley said on what he told his team at halftime. “We challenged them to make better decisions in offense and to shoot it with more confidence.”
That halftime speech from Hurley worked to perfection.
ASU came out firing on all cylinders in the second half, on both offense and defense. The Devils outscored SDSU 56-28 in the second half, shooting 67% while holding SDSU to only 30%.
“We knew we were getting opens shots and shots we are capable of making,” senior guard Tra Holder said on his team’s second half surge. “Coach just preached to keep attacking and keeping playing how we practice. We tried taking that attitude into the second half and it worked for us.”
Holder lead the team with 24 points, eight rebounds and six assists, his second straight game with at least 18 points, eight rebounds, and six assists to start the season.
Redshirt freshman forward Romello White had a brilliant first game as a Sun Devil after he sat out the first game against Idaho State, scoring 16 points and collecting 15 rebounds.
“I thought he (White) was a little bit nervous, turned the ball over a couple of times even though he has great hands,” Hurley said. “As the game wore on, he kept playing as hard as he was and he had a great second half. He has a great motor.”
White sat out the entirety of the 2016-17 season as a redshirt, so it has been quite a while since White has played in a meaningful game.
“He took it well,” Hurley said. “It’s not easy when you are in practice and then don’t get to play with the lights on.”
“It was amazing,” White said on his first game. “(Last year) was really difficult, especially in the beginning. After a while, I talked to some of the guys on the team who redshirted and they told me ‘Just play hard and get through it. Next year will be worth it.’ It was.”
De’Quon Lake added in 15 points, seven rebounds and two blocks before fouling out late in the second half, his second straight quality game to start the season.
“They (Lake and White) make the jobs of the guards so much easier,” Holder said. “They are such a big presence down there in the post and on defense. If it’s their night, we just have to keep feeding them.”
ASU will host Northern Arizona in Tempe on Friday. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m.
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