TEMPE — It wasn’t pretty. In fact, at times, it was downright hard to watch, but the Arizona State Sun Devils pushed their season record to 3-0 with a hard-fought 64-53 win over the Cornell Big Red Tuesday night in a Continental Tires Las Vegas Invitational tournament game at Wells Fargo Arena.
The Sun Devils trailed by three at the half, which was mostly the result of iffy shot selection. ASU launched 18 three-point attempts in the first half, making only three.
The trend continued early in the second half, when Evan Gordon missed on another trey. But then ASU started attacking the rim. Carrick Felix got a steal and a layup. A Gordon steal led to another Felix layup and after another defensive stop, Jordan Bachynski got a dunk to put ASU up by three at 28-25.
But Cornell (1-4) wouldn’t go away, actually taking a 38-36 lead on a three-pointer by Devin Cherry with just under 11 minutes to go in the game. ASU would answer with a Bachynski layup followed by a Chris Colvin three-pointer with 10:05 remaining. The Sun Devils would never look back and led by as many as 14 points in the later stages of the game.
Freshman Jahii Carson led the way once again with 21 points, 11 of which came from the free throw line.
But defense was the key for Arizona State, as the Devils forced 23 Cornell turnovers. ASU came up with 14 steals and Bachynski continued to be a menace near the rim with seven more blocked shots.
The Good: Chris Colvin continues to be a spark plug off of Herb Sendek’s bench. The senior had 8 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals and hit the three-pointer that turned the tide midway through the second half.
The Bad: After seeing the Sun Devils push the ball aggressively in their first two wins, the first half reminded many in attendance of last year’s stagnant offense. ASU managed just 22 points before the break and shot a woeful 27.6% from the floor.
Noted: Cornell’s 23 turnovers were the fourth-most forced by a Sendek-coached ASU team. Texas State committed 27 in a 2009 game, while San Diego State (2009) and Florida Gulf Coast (2007) each committed 24.
The Sun Devils finished the evening shooting just 35.2% from the floor marking the fourth-lowest shooting percentage in a win under Sendek.
Jordan Bachynski blocked 7 shots, bringing his season total to 22 in just three games. Bachynski had 41 blocks all of last year.
He Said It: “I feel good about it. I think it’s been a great start for us. Good momentum, and we obviously face a great challenge this weekend, it’s going to be perfectly timed for our team…it’s going to tell us some more about ourselves.” — ASU head coach Herb Sendek.
Up next: About that challenge, ASU heads to Sin City to compete in the Continental Tires Las Vegas Invitational against Arkansas Friday. The Sun Devils will play either 14th-ranked Creighton or Wisconsin on Saturday in their final game of the tournament.