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Getting to know: Arizona State basketball

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Arizona State guard Shannon Evans II (11) in the first half during an NCAA college basketball game against San Francisco, Saturday, Dec 2, 2017, in Tempe, Ariz.

Arizona State guard Shannon Evans II (11) in the first half during an NCAA college basketball game against San Francisco, Saturday, Dec 2, 2017, in Tempe, Ariz.

Off to the program’s first 8-0 start since 1974, Arizona State has been one of the top surprises throughout college basketball. Ranked No. 16, it’s the first time ASU has entered the Associated Press poll since the 2008-09 season.

Highlighted by a high-powered offense, the Sun Devils have picked up wins against San Diego State, Kansas State and Xavier leading into Sunday’s matchup against Kansas (1 p.m., ESPN) at Allen Fieldhouse.

"Just with them coming off the loss to Washington, I know they've had some really stiff, tough practices and I know coach (Bill) Self has motivated them,'' ASU coach Bobby Hurley said. "And then you have Allen (Fieldhouse) and the advantage that that building is, it's going to be something for our players to experience.”

In the preseason Pac-12 poll, Arizona State was picked to finish sixth, returning three starters.

Fun fact: According to Stats Inc., Arizona State was the first Pac-12 team to score 90 points in six straight games since at least 1996. The Sun Devils average 91.4 points per game.

Series history: Kansas leads 5-4. The Jayhawks won the last meeting in 2003 during the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Kirk Heinrich scored 24 points in a 108-76 win.

BREAKING DOWN ARIZONA STATE

TOP PLAYER

No. 0 — G Tra Holder | 6-1, 180, sr.

Arizona State guard Tra Holder, right, passes around St. John's guard Justin Simon during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Los Angeles, Friday, Dec. 8, 2017.

Arizona State guard Tra Holder, right, passes around St. John's guard Justin Simon during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Los Angeles, Friday, Dec. 8, 2017.

One of the most dangerous scorers in the Pac-12, Holder leads Arizona State with 20.3 points per game on 45.9 percent shooting. He’s made 45 percent of his attempts from behind the 3-point line and knocked down 85 percent of his free throws.

Holder, who scored 40 points earlier this season against Xavier, ranks 13th on the school’s all-time leading scorer list.

From Brentwood, Calif., Holder says he wears the No. 0 because “no excuses.”

  • "He just feels like no one can really stay in front of him," ASU coach Bobby Hurley said. "He's got multiple moves he can go to, his 3-point game is making defenses honor that. He's great and crafty at finishing. How much he's improved and how much he's grown and the player he's become, I'm just so proud of him."

SUPPORTING CAST

No. 11 — G Shannon Evans II | 6-1, 172, sr.

A transfer from Buffalo, Evans followed Hurley to Arizona State. In his senior season, he’s averaging 18.6 points and 5.3 assists. He’s shooting 42.9 percent from the 3-point line.

Evans leads the Sun Devils with 14 steals and is their top free-throw shooter with an 87.2 percent mark. He’s averaging 36 minutes per game.

No. 23 — F Romello White | 6-8, 235, r-fr.

Arizona State forward Romello White (23) drives past San Francisco guard Jordan Ratinho in the second half during an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Dec 2, 2017, in Tempe, Ariz. Arizona State defeated San Francisco 75-57.

Arizona State forward Romello White (23) drives past San Francisco guard Jordan Ratinho in the second half during an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Dec 2, 2017, in Tempe, Ariz. Arizona State defeated San Francisco 75-57.

An academic redshirt last season, White is averaging 16.6 points and a team-high 9.3 rebounds per game. He’s shooting 71.2 percent from the floor, taking nearly all of his shots right at the rim.

White, who has a 7-foot wingspan, has recorded three double-doubles this year. He’s taken the most free-throw attempts on the team (70) — shooting 60 percent. He was coached in AAU by Jerry Stackhouse.

ONE THING ARIZONA STATE DOES WELL

There’s a couple of reasons the Sun Devils are so dangerous offensively. They know how to earn trips to the free-throw line and they are one of the top 3-point shooting teams in the country. Arizona State has made 41.6 percent of its attempts from behind the arc, which ranks 22nd in the nation.

ONE AREA ARIZONA STATE STRUGGLES

The Sun Devils allow a lot of 3-pointers and they haven’t been great at defending the arc throughout the season. Opposing teams are shooting 35.8 percent from 3-point range in 215 attempts (27 per game). Arizona State hasn’t played great defense in transition either.

MEET THE COACH

Arizona State head coach Bobby Hurley reacts to a foul call in the first half during an NCAA college basketball game against San Francisco, Saturday, Dec 2, 2017, in Tempe, Ariz.

Arizona State head coach Bobby Hurley reacts to a foul call in the first half during an NCAA college basketball game against San Francisco, Saturday, Dec 2, 2017, in Tempe, Ariz.

Bobby Hurley is in his third season with the Sun Devils, looking for his first winning season with the school. Previously, he coached two seasons at Buffalo, which included an NCAA Tournament appearance.

Hurley starred at Duke where he won two NCAA titles and remains the NCAA all-time assists leader (1,076). His brother, Dan, coaches at Rhode Island, and his dad, Bob Sr., was a legendary high school coach in New Jersey.

VEGAS SAYS…

Kansas by 12. I think the Jayhawks’ offensive struggles were a little overblown last game against Washington. Not many teams will be able to replicate Washington’s zone and it took an off night for several of KU’s shooters. Defensively, I think there were more holes that showed than a week ago, which ASU should look to exploit.

My prediction: Kansas 87, Arizona State 78. Bobby’s record vs. the spread: 4-3.

Comments

Kent Richardson 7 months, 1 week ago

Syracuse was inept on offense. We were inept on offense against Washington. ASU probably will be better than The Orange and Washington at scoring.

Back at Allen we don't need to be hitting on all cylinders but it would help. If we get 80 we have a good chance to win. In part because Self has challenged a lot of players to maybe play some D? What did we have, like six fast break points?

If we aren't effective with our four man core of DeVonte, Svi, Lagerald and Udoka someone needs to step up. Where is Newman? Will those, game wise, meaningless late treys gain some meaning if his torqued shots start going in? We can't have any starter be other than above average. Dickie V said he scary good in HS. Coach and he know what needs to happen and how to do it. We keep feeding him and have no choice but to keep doing it. If these four plus one can't be dominant night in and night out we will have to rely on our bench and that's the path to a 4 or 5 loss conference record.

All this changes if we get Sergeant Preston in as our third big. How good are Yukon Cunliffe and De Sousa, maybe, going to be?

This is just my current state of the union and it's all still up in the air which makes it fun.

Steve Zimmerman 7 months, 1 week ago

Yes, Kent is right. Defense will NOT win a game if the team doesn't finish fastbreaks. Defense will NOT win a game if the team does not have good offense strategy, even if it has good shooters, even with a BIG Dok. What our team also needs is guts like BIFM. Draw fouls, penetrate, penetrate and penetrate, fake shots; we have guards all over the court - their job is not just to standby and fire shots, I would hope. But, there is still a chance - we can still play good ball once we figure out how to play together.

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