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Sun Devils take advantage of Ragin’ Cajuns’ sloppy first half in win

(Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)

TEMPE, Ariz. — The Arizona State Sun Devils entered Saturday night with six straight home games on the docket, with the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns first up.

Turning the Ragin’ Cajuns’ mistakes into points, the Sun Devils cruised to a 77-65 win over Louisiana-Lafayette Saturday night, giving the team a 3-0 record at home.

Despite a difficult shooting stretch from beyond the arc in the first half, the Sun Devils had little trouble building an early lead thanks to an advantageous defense.

Converting 13 Ragin’ Cajun turnovers into 18 points in the first half alone, the Sun Devils quickly found themselves ahead thanks in part to the team’s eight steals. The turnover total was reminiscent of the team’s first few games, where it had at least 18 TOs in each. The last two contests, the Sun Devils managed just 11 turnovers apiece in 40 minutes.

The points off of turnovers and steals obviously look stellar on the statsheet, but the manner in which the defense conducted itself was equally as impressive. With just two players with two fouls each in the half, the Sun Devils stayed out of foul trouble for the most part, while holding Louisiana-Lafayette to two free throw attempts.

And while the defense stepped up, the post play of junior Romello White gave the Sun Devils an added boost in a half that saw ASU convert just one of its eight shots from beyond the arc. On the other side of the coin, the Ragin’ Cajuns found success from deep, quickly hitting their first three shots, before ending the half 4-of-11.

From the tip, it looked to be a night where White would be the focal point, jumping out to a team-high 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting to go along with five rebounds, also a team high, in the first half. He led all Sun Devils with 19 points and 14 rebounds, six of which were offensive.

“Good things happened when he had the ball, bottom line,” ASU head coach Bobby Hurley said after the game. “Percentages, some of his really good passes out of the post. He went to the offensive glass, he battled in the paint to rebound. He was one of the primary reasons why we were in the position we were in late in the game.”

Junior guard Remy Martin and senior Rob Edwards chipped in 15 and 17 points, respectively.

For White, the performance marked a second-straight double-double for the junior. White continues to build a strong season, and entering play Saturday was third on the team in points per game (10.5) and led the team in rebounds (8.3).

“I feel like I’ve gotten into a groove and I’ve been trying to stay consistent with how I play,” White said after the game. “That’s really what I’ve been focused on, taking my time when I get the ball and really just trying to dominate on both sides of the floor not just the offensive end.”

Already riding a 12-point lead to start the final 20 minutes, the Sun Devils needed little to hold onto the advantage in the second half.

But while the scoreboard favored the Sun Devils, Hurley was not pleased with how his team finished the game.

After allowing just two free throw attempts in the first half, the Sun Devils gave up 13 points on 18 shots from the charity stripe, showcasing a lack of poise on defense.

“Thought our defense was poor relative to how we guarded in the first half and most of the season,” Hurley said. “We just allowed them to go off the bounce and beat us and put them on the free throw line way too much, so it was a really poor defensive effort in the second half.”

ASU did improve from 3-point land, jumping from 12.5% to 27.8% (5-of-18), while hitting all six of its free throw tries in the second, but also saw a dip in overall shooting, dropping from 46.7% to 37.8%.

“I just think we got baited into taking some poor shots, we did have some open 3’s that we missed badly,” Hurley said. “When you look at 6-for-26, guys just have to start hitting from three, especially when you have a guy down low that’s as productive as Romello’s going to be, those shots are going to be there. They’ve got to connect at a better rate.”

ASU moves to 6-2 after the victory, but it’s the fashion in which the team’s winning that’s cause for concern for the ASU head coach. Against better teams, tonight’s ending could have gone a lot differently.

“We have to start getting it in gear and start trying to strive to play well, so that regardless of what the score is you feel good about yourself after the game,” Hurley said.

“As much as we’ve been winning, I just haven’t felt like ‘wow, this really looks great, this feels good,’ so we have to get back to the drawing board and get in practice and play better.

“We just have to figure out how to not be schizophrenic within a game.”

Hurley and the Sun Devils will look for a more complete 40 minutes Wednesday night as they host the Prairie View A&M Panthers in the second tilt of their six-game homestand. Catch all the action live on ESPN 620 AM.


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