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Shannon Evans shot Sun Devils, himself out of mini-slump

Arizona State guard Shannon Evans II (11) drives around Utah guard Sedrick Barefield (0) in the first half during an NCAA college basketball game Sunday, Jan. 7, 2018, in Salt Lake City. Arizona State won, 80-77. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

TEMPE, Ariz. — Sun Devils guard Shannon Evans shot a combined 6-for-28 in Arizona State’s two losses to Arizona and Colorado, and 0-for-14 from 3-point range.

Here’s how he used the two off days between the loss to the Buffaloes on Thursday and Sunday’s game at Utah.

He shot a gazillion balls to get his rhythm back. He watched the movie “Insidious,” which he somehow found “relaxing,” and he chatted with ASU legend and Houston Rockets guard James Harden, who assured him that even MVP candidates go through dry spells.

“He was just saying, ‘it happens. Everybody goes through it,'” Evans said. “It’s frustrating because you want to win so bad. Your only goal is to win. You’re in a shooting slump and your team loses two games. You’re like, ‘man!’

“You’ve got people throwing shots at you, saying this and saying that; all this negativity. What do you do? You can either fold or you can rise to the occasion.”

Evans chose the latter path, drilling five of seven 3-pointers and scoring 22 points in ASU’s trip-salvaging, 80-77 win over the Utes.

“I was really pleased to see him play the way he did at Utah,” Sun Devils coach Bobby Hurley said. “It’s hard, when you’re in a little bit of a slump and you’re not seeing the ball go in, to drag yourself out of that.”

Evans said he felt different when the first shot left his hands: a 3-pointer just 36 seconds into the game.

“The first shot at Utah, I kind of wanted to over-exaggerate my form and stay in it,” he said. “It went in for me so the [net] got a little bit bigger. Once I made one I knew it was over. I’m hot with one shot.”

The win was important for No. 11 ASU (13-2) for the simple reason that it didn’t want to fall into a 0-3 hole in Pac-12 play after a 12-0 non-conference performance. While ASU fell in the AP rankings, a win over a team in the RPI top 60 also earned the Devils a No. 9 RPI ranking.

Even so, Hurley sees work ahead for the Sun Devils’ offense, which hasn’t been making zone defenses pay the way it was earlier this season as it prepares for home games against Oregon (Thursday) and Oregon State (Saturday).

“We didn’t shoot particularly well in the first two, in the 30s, and then we were 8-for-24 from three vs. Utah, but we did climb those numbers to about 44 percent so I like where we’re trending,” Hurley said. “We’ve got to get back to being more efficient on offense and executing a little better on offense.

“I didn’t go as a great a job against Colorado of getting more movement into our offense against their zone. We did some things in practice leading into Utah that helped get some more movement. Our offense functioned better.”

Evans is clearly a key cog in a well-oiled offense, but for more reasons than his ability to score.

“Shannon certainly has the fire and the passion,” Hurley said. “When he gets a game going it kind of rubs off on everyone else.”

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