ASU Basketball Head Coach Herb Sendek
ASU Basketball opened its season Saturday night hosting the Central Arkansas Bears in front of 4,286 people in Wells Fargo Arena. I would have expected a much larger crowd for the debut of redshirt freshman Jahii Carson.
The Sun Devils came out in all white to match the uniform of the football team but had a much better outcome than Todd Graham's football squad besting Central Arkansas University 79-64.
Three starters from last year made the initial lineup with the aforementioned Carson running the point and Liberty University transfer Evan Gordon getting the start. Gordon, the younger brother of NBA player Eric Gordon, had sat out last year due to NCAA transfer regulations.
Central Arkansas of the Southland Conference traveled all the way from Conway, Arkansas to see what the new-look Sun Devils had to show. They learned that Herb Sendek's fast-paced offense was difficult to match.
Here are the player grades for Arizona State with some side commentary along with their stat lines.
Jordan Bachynski was the star of the night with 17 points on 8-of-10 shooting from the floor and 1-of-3 from the charity stripe. Notching his second double-double of his career, Bachynski just missed his first triple-double by coming up one block short with nine. He did however, set an Arizona State record for most blocks in a game.
Bachynski started off hot, hitting 5-of-6 from the floor in the first half for 11 points, pulling down six rebounds and blocking four shots in 15 minutes. In the second half, he continued his sharp-shooting with 3-of-4 shooting from the field, six more rebounds and five more blocks.
When asked in the post-game press conference if he knew that he was close to a triple-double or breaking the school's block record, he replied, "As I play, I don't really keep track of my stats, I just play hard, you know, it doesn't really matter if I have one block, two blocks, eight blocked shots; I just play hard and don't pay attention to the scoreboard."
In a room full of stat hounds paying attention to every move that each player makes, it was refreshing to hear such humility and dedication to the team dynamic.
The debut of the highly anticipated freshman pleased everyone in attendance. As expected, Carson had some early jitters. He missed his first two shots from the field and sat a spell to regroup. After doing nothing but practice, practice, practice for a year, this was finally his time to shine. He was actually playing a college game in front of fans and he wasn't playing to his ability.
That brief break did him wonders as he only missed one more attempt in the rest of the half. At the intermission, he was 3-of-6 from the field including 2-of-2 from beyond the arc as well as at the charity stripe. He also chalked up four assists in 13 minutes of play.
The second half wasn't as kind to Carson as he went 2-of-5 from the field and missed his only three-point attempt. He converted just 1-of-4 free throws and served up only one assist in 17 minutes.
I don't know if he got tired, over-confident or just overwhelmed, but if the Sun Devils are going to contend in the ultra competitive Pac-12 Conference, Carson needs to replicate his first-half stats throughout the game.
Jonathan Gilling entered tonight's game ready and willing to prove that his stellar freshman season was no fluke. He played a team-high 35 minutes and contributed on nearly every play.
I was pleased with the play of the "Non-Melancholy Dane" and can't wait to see him blossom into a player that will carry this Arizona State team into the postseason.
Gilling hit 3-of-5 from the field and 2-of-3 from beyond the arc. He contributed eight points while dishing out an assist, getting a steal and grabbing three boards.
Like the rest of the Sun Devils, Gilling's shooting dropped off in the second half, hitting only 1-of-4 field goals as well as behind the three-point line. He racked up one more assist and three more rebounds but also had three turnovers in the second after not turning it over once in the first.
Coming off the bench and playing 21 minutes, Chris Colvin was the shining star for the Sun Devils in the second half.
Colvin played nine minutes in the first half and only contributed three points while dishing out four assists. His 12 minutes in the second half produced an impressive 3-of-5 field goals and two steals.
Although he missed his only three-point attempt and was only 3-of-6 from the free-throw stripe, I would like to see him start if Carrick Felix continues to have games like he had on Saturday.
Evan Gordon was also making his debut in a Sun Devil uniform and expectations were as high for him as they were for Jahii Carson.
As a shooting guard, he did a lot of shooting but missed an incredible amount. With as many attempts in the first half as Bachynski and Carson had combined, Gordon only sunk 4-of-12. An adept sharp-shooter from behind the three-point line, Gordon only managed 1-of-6 in the first half.
While the Sun Devils as a team were horrific from the free-throw line, Gordon was the bright spot, hitting 3-of-4 in the first half and finishing 5-of-8.
In the second half, Gordon's shooting went from cold to frigid missing all four shots from the field and all three shots from three-point territory. He also went 2-of-4 in free-throw shooting.
The only improvement that he showed in the second half was on the defensive end, grabbing five of his total eight rebounds in the second half.
My main criticism of Gordon was seeing that his shot was off, he kept on shooting and only dished out a single assist throughout the game.
The point guard from last season picked up where he left off last season—being as unpredictable as ever. Shooting 1-of-7 from the field and 0-for-2 from beyond the arc in the first half had the Sun Devil faithful worried that we were getting the "bad Felix" again this season.
He pulled down an impressive six rebounds and also had three steals so his defense was impeccable. For this, we could overlook the measly three points in the first half.
In the second half, Felix went 2-of-4 from the field and didn't attempt any three-point shots. He added five more rebounds and finished the game with three steals and two blocks. Once again, very impressive defensive numbers, but atrocious on the offensive side.
Felix had several similar games last season and hence the reason that Arizona State only won eight game. Felix is no longer the court general of this team, although he is the most experienced.
If Saturday's game against an inferior team is any indication of what is in store for this fifth-year player who graduated with a B.S. in Communications last year, the Sun Devils are flirting with disaster.
1st Half Points: 49
2nd Half Points: 30
1st Half Rebounds: 21
2nd Half Rebounds: 26
1st Half Assists: 11
2nd Half Assists: 5
1st Half Field Goal Percentage: 45.0 percent
2nd Half Field Goal Percentage: 41.4 percent
1st Half Three-Point Percentage: 38.5 percent
2nd Half Three-Point Percentage: 11.1 percent
1st Half Free-Throw Percentage: 53.3 percent
1st Half Three-Point Percentage: 50.0 percent
It was pretty much a "Tale of Two Halves." When they went on a 16-0 run in the final three minutes to finish the first half, I believe that made them a little overconfident and they came back flat. That is not the sign of a high-caliber team.
It is the sign of a lazy team.
If they were playing teams from the Southland Conference every game, they could get away with it, but they are not. They will be matching up with non-conference teams such as Wisconsin and Creighton before they enter into conference play. The Pac-12 had a horrible year in 2011-12, but the conference is much improved with powerhouses like the UCLA Bruins and Arizona Wildcats poised to return to elite status.
If Arizona State plans on competing on the big stage, they need to play a full 40 minutes.