BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) — Arizona State is finally playing the type of defense coach Herb Sendek has been hoping for.
The Sun Devils are also looking more crisp offensively — and they’re finally making up some ground in the Pac-12.
Bo Barnes matched his career high with 17 points off the bench, Kodi Justice had 16 and Arizona State pulled away with a big run in the first half to beat 79-44 on Thursday night.
The Sun Devils (10-9, 2-4 Pac-12) scored 22 unanswered points and held the Golden Bears scoreless for more than 13 minutes in the first half to win their second consecutive win after opening conference with four straight losses.
“It’s definitely a confidence-builder when you can get back-to-back wins,” Barnes said. “The key has been our defense. The last two games it’s been much improved. They only had 10 points until about five minutes left in the first half, which was huge for us.”
Savon Goodman added nine points and seven rebounds for Arizona State.
The Sun Devils led by as much as 38 while extending their winning streak over the Bears to four. Barnes had 11 points in the second half while Justice added three 3-pointers.
Jordan Mathews had 11 points and five rebounds for California (11-8, 1-5). It’s the second-worst home loss in school history.
“It’s my job as a coach to get our guys ready to play … so I didn’t do a very good job and we came up short,” Bears coach Cuonzo Martin said. “It’s a tough loss but the key is you have to learn from it. When you miss some easy ones around the rim, it’s tough.”
It’s the third time this season the struggling Sun Devils have won by 36 points or more. It’s also the second-largest Pac-12 road win ever for school history.
Arizona State shot 48.1 percent and got a big boost from its defense, which forced 19 turnovers while holding California to 13 points in the first half.
“Our team has been getting better and has been improving,” Sendek said. “They are a group that does things the right way and they stay the course.”
The Sun Devils also made 10 3-pointers — four from Justice.
The two teams were tied early when Arizona State went on its big run.
Justice had seven points to get the Sun Devils going while Barnes scored on a tip-in and 3-pointer to help put the Sun Devils up 32-10.
“When we’re struggling is when the ball is stagnant,” Barnes. “The last couple of games it’s really been moving and we’ve been sharing it. Everybody benefits more when we play like that.”
David Kravish ended Cal’s scoring drought with a backdoor layup with 1:38 left in the half but Corban Murray’s short basket helped push Arizona State’s halftime lead to 34-13.
Arizona State: The Sun Devils went into the game with the eighth-ranked defense in the Pac-12 but held the Bears scoreless for more than 13 minutes in the first half. … Arizona State leads the all-time series 39-37.
California: David Kravish needs one block to tie Michael Stewart’s school record of 207 (1994-97). … The 13 points were the fewest by the Bears in the first half since they were held to five against Notre Dame on Nov. 26, 2010. … Fifth-year senior Dwight Tarwater started for the first time this season but did not score. … Jabari Bird was also held scoreless in his first start since Nov. 30.
Arizona State: At Stanford on Saturday.
California: Hosts No. 7 Arizona on Saturday.
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