The first 90 seconds belonged to Xavier. After that, it was all Arizona State.
Xavier jumped out to an 8-0 lead to begin the game, starting with an alley-oop to high-flyer Derrick Brown. Coach Herb Sendek called a timeout and from then on, ASU's defense set the tone for what would be the Devils' first win at home over a ranked non-conference opponent since 1980...before anyone on ASU's roster was born. This win is also the second straight win over a Top 25 opponent (the other being last year against USC) after losing 21 straight to ranked opponents. It starting to become quite evident that Sendek has turned this program around.
ASU put up their best win of the season in what was truly a team effort. The scoring was spread out and the defensive intensity was electric. The new found depth of the Sun Devils has never been more evident as Sendek received 30 points from his bench, and continual fresh legs on the defensive end.
Sendek started 4 freshman in the biggest game of the season (the new starter being Rihards Kuksiks, I'm guessing because his size matched up better against Xavier's forwards, but I could be wrong...I just don't see him being a permanent starter this season), and the bench played extremely well in the huge win.
The Sun Devil defense held Xavier to a dismal 30.6% shooting from the field and had 7 steals while the ASU offense displayed movement that they hadn't shown all season and had scoring from everywhere. The Devils shot 59.5% from the field, including 10-of-19 from behind the arc. The defense also held Xavier's star point guard and leading scorer Drew Lavender to 3-of-11 shooting and kept him mainly ineffective for the entire game.
The most impressive aspects of this game were the continued brilliance of Sendek's basic zone defensive schemes and the spreading of the wealth on offense. The discipline of Sendek's 3-2 zone (or it could be a 1-2-2, the constant shifts with the pass makes it obscure at times) is really fun to watch if your a hoops head. Holding a team averaging nearly 80 points per game to 55 points on 30 percent shooting is more than signicant on a team full of freshmen and sophomores.
The co-MVPs of this game were Ty Abbott and Jerren Shipp, who combined for 36 points, 13 boards, 2 blocks and 2 steals with only 1 turnover, but more importantly made all of the hustle plays that don't show up on the box score. The duo continually made the right plays at the right times, including timely threes, pesky defense, and several critical rebounds that really allowed the Devils to control the game. Even more impressive? Abbott has been sick all week, but that didn't slow down the standout freshman from playing the best game of his career, including 5 three pointers on 7-of 10 shooting from the floor.
The Devils play next on Tuesday, December 18 at home against Montana State at 7pm.