TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — Arizona State is a team still trying to find its way and, like the start of its game against UNLV, it can be ugly.
But when the Sun Devils get going, like they did after that early funk, it sure can be fun to watch.
Eric Jacobsen had 16 points and 12 rebounds, Kodi Justice orchestrated the offense well and Arizona State shot its way to a 77-55 win over the Rebels Wednesday night.
“We have a saying that things are rarely as good or bad as they seem,” said Arizona State coach Herb Sendek, who won his 400th career game. “Once we regrouped, from that point on, arguably we played our best game of the year.”
Arizona State (5-2) started slow, clanging shots while the Rebels couldn’t seem to miss.
The Sun Devils climbed back into it behind a better defensive effort and a stream of 3-pointers to win their 13th straight home game over two seasons, matching their longest streak since 1980-81.
Justice controlled the game after missing the previous one with a back injury, finishing with 13 points, six assists, five rebounds and no turnovers.
Gerry Blakes continued to shoot well, scoring 11 points on 5-of-10 shooting while grabbing nine rebounds.
Arizona State locked the Rebels down defensively in the second half and made 11 of 22 from behind the 3-point arc overall to turn a close game at halftime into a rout.
“The one thing we do really well as a group is keep the energy up,” Jacobsen said. “We have a lot of new guys, but they work hard every day.”
The Rebels (4-2) raced out to a 15-point lead early in the first half, seemingly getting any shot they wanted.
Once those stopped falling, UNLV began to force the issue a bit and started missing more, shooting 24 percent in the second half.
The Rebels also struggled at the defensive end for stretches, particularly along the perimeter.
UNLV also lost star freshman Rashad Vaughn to an apparent back injury midway through the second half.
“It got away from us in the second half,” UNLV coach Dave Rice said. “Shots went in to start the game, then we got a little impatient and tried to hit too many home runs.”
Arizona State beat UNLV 86-60 last season behind Jahii Carson’s 40-point game.
Very little about this year’s teams are the same.
The Rebels, who have no returning starters, had a solid start to the season as Rice tries to sort through roles and his rotation, losing only to Stanford in the opening five games.
Like UNLV, the Sun Devils spent the season’s first month feeling their way through, playing well at times, not-so-well others.
Arizona State certainly wasn’t sharp against UNLV early, struggling with the Rebels’ length inside and quickness on the perimeter.
The Sun Devils missed five of their first six shots while UNLV opened 7 for 11 during an opening 15-4 run.
Once Arizona State started to solve what UNLV was doing, it became a game.
UNLV made shots inside and out, hitting 15 of 30 in the first half. Arizona State countered from the perimeter, making 6 of 8 from the 3-point arc while using a 17-2 run to tie the game at 37-all by halftime.
Once the second half started, the Rebels couldn’t seem to get anything to fall from anywhere.
UNLV missed 15 of its first 19 shots in the half while Arizona State kept making ’em while building a 58-46 lead.
Worse for the Rebels, Vaughn, their leading scorer, had to be helped to the locker room and appeared to be in a lot of pain after going down midway through the second half.
UNLV never threatened the lead again.
“We didn’t come out with the same execution in the second half, just didn’t get it done,” Rice said.
UNLV spent the week working on stopping ASU’s stretch-4 forward, Jon Gilling. The Rebels didn’t do a very good job, allowing him to break free for numerous open looks that either went in — he was 3 for 5 from the arc — or opened up other shooters as UNLV tried to rotate out.
UNLV: Rice said Vaughn was lying on a table in the locker room after the game and did not have an update on his injury. .. The Rebels made 8 of 33 shots in the second half, missing all six of their 3-pointers.
Arizona State: Sophomore forward Savon Goodman did not get a chance to play against his former team. The UNLV transfer is not eligible until Dec. 16. … Jacobsen, Blakes and Justice combined to make 16 of 32 shots.
UNLV plays St. Katherine at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.
Arizona State plays at Texas A&M on Saturday.
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