The Arizona State Sun Devil men's basketball team (13-11; 3-8) plays host to #23 USC and UCLA this weekend for a Friday-Sunday slate. ASU will take on USC Friday at 6 p.m. followed by the Sunday ESPNU game vs. UCLA at 6:30. Roxy Bernstein and Steve Lavin have the USC Pac-12 Network call, while Bernstein and Corey Williams have the ESPNU call at 6:30 on Sunday. Tim Healey and Kyle Dodd have the Sun Devil radio call on the Sun Devil Sports Radio Network (98.7 FM), presented by MidFirst.
OBI ONE TO KEEP AN EYE ON: It was the Jan. 14 WSU game where junior Obinna Oleka began to emerge as he has been in double figures in the past eight games (started with WSU) and is averaging 13.5 points and is 32-of-34 (.941) from the free throw line in that time. Only Tra Holder (14.0) is averaging more in the past eight.
QUICK NOTES FROM PRIOR LA MEETINGS: ASU fell at USC 75-65 on Jan. 7 and 81-74 at UCLA on Jan. 9, but had good chances down the stretch in both. ASU was down 54-37 at the 10:37 mark at USC but came back and was down 65-63 with the ball with a minute left before three missed shots resulted in run-out baskets for the Trojans. At UCLA, ASU led 74-72 with 2:01 left but gave up a three-pointer with just over a minute left after a UCLA offensive rebound. That weekend Tra Holder was 17-of-30 (.567) from the field, 7-of-12 (.583) from three and had 21 at USC and career-best 26 at UCLA. ASU was uncharacteristic 6-of-15 from the free throw line at USC.
TWEETABLES ABOUT @SUNDEVILHOOPS...
√ Willie Atwood: 16 double-digit scoring games/15 games without scoring last year
√ ASU is averaging 76.0 ppg., its best mark since 2002-03 squad scored 77.0
√ ASU has played eight games that were decided by five points or less (and 12-pt OT L)
√ Obi Oleka: 12.1 ppg. in past 14 games and 47-52 (.904) FTs
√ Obi Oleka: 38-41 (.927) FTs in Pac-12 games, best in the league
√ Tra Holder: 17.3 points in past 15 games and is 35-78 (.449) from 3PT in that time
√ FT% of .702 is best since 2009-10 (.712)
√ Willie Atwood: 72-92 (.783) from FTs on the year
√ Kodi Justice: 10.0 ppg past 8 games
√ Averaging 41.0 points in second half (34.5 in the first half)
√ As of Feb. 9 the Pac-12's top OOC RPI win is ASU over #17 Texas A&M (Dec. 5)
√ Savon Goodman is at 9.0 ppg/7.0 rpg in the past seven games
WILLIE THEN AND NOW: Last season Willie Atwood averaged 11.6 minutes, scored 92 total points (3.0 per game) and was 11-of-31 (.355) from the three-point stripe. With a slimmed-down frame, he is a new player this year. He has 16 double-digit scoring games (he had two last year also had 15 games where he did not score).
VS. USC: USC leads the ASU series 54-38 as the contest has been predictable recently, as ASU is 2-7 at USC since the Galen Center opened in 2006-07 (didn't play in Los Angeles last season) but is 7-1 in Tempe in that same time frame. ASU has averaged 69.1 ppg. in past eight home games vs. USC (7-1) but 51.9 in the past nine games at Galen Center (2-7). USC had an ASU opponent season-best nine blocks, ASU shot a season-worst 6-of-15 (.400) from the foul line and the Trojans were whistled for an ASU opponent low 15 fouls in the game earlier this year. ASU had the first bucket of the game but never led again, as USC led 14-4 with 12:07 and pushed it to 35-24 at the half. The lead reached 17 at the 10:37 mark, but ASU made 10-of-13 from the field to get back in the game and had a three-pointer to go ahead with just over a minute hit the rim.
PAST 8 ASU VS. USC GAMES IN TEMPE (ASU LEADS 7-1)
ASU 64, USC 59/Feb. 22, 2015
ASU 98, USC 83 (OT)/Jan. 24, 2013
ASU 56, USC 52/Feb. 25, 2012
USC 63, ASU 61/Jan. 27, 2011
ASU 59, USC 54/Mar. 4, 2010
ASU 65, USC 53/Feb. 15, 2009
ASU 80, USC 66/Mar. 1, 2008
ASU 68, USC 58/Feb. 18, 2007
DOUBLE DIGITS: ASU had five players in double figures in the Oregon State, Texas A&M and the Houston Baptist wins and in the loss at Washington and had six in the Tempe Washington loss. Five players in double digits happened once last year.
SUN DEVIL WINS OVER RANKED TEAMS PAST 10 SEASONS
ASU 67, #18 Texas A&M 54/Dec. 5, 2015
ASU 81, #6 Arizona 78/Feb. 7, 2015
ASU 69, #2 Arizona 66 (2 OT)/Feb. 14, 2014
ASU 79, #25 Marquette 77/Nov. 25, 2013
ASU 68, #24 Washington 51/Jan. 8, 2010
#23 ASU 75, #13 Washington 65/Pac-10 Tourney/Mar. 13, 2009
#18 ASU 74, #11 UCLA 67/Feb. 12, 2009
#16 ASU 61, @ #9 UCLA 58 (OT)/Jan. 17, 2009
ASU 72, #7 Stanford 68 (OT)/Feb. 14, 2008
ASU 77, #17 Xavier 55/Dec. 15, 2007
ASU 68, #22 USC 58/Feb. 18, 2007
FALL SIGNINGS: ESPN tabbed ASU's fall signing period two-man class as 19th in the nation. Sam Cunliffe, a 6-6 wing from Seattle who averaged nearly 20 points per game in his junior season, is rated as the top 2016 player in Washington, while shot blocker Jethro Tshisumpa at 6-10 and 260 is ranked as the 12th-best center prospect.
AT HOME: ASU is 56-12 (.823) at home in the past four seasons, the most home wins in a four-year period since the Lionel Hollins-led Sun Devils opened the building in 1974-75. Prior to this era, the most home wins in any four-year era was 51 (1991-95 and 2007-11). The best winning percentage in a four-year span came from 1979-83, when the Sun Devils went 49-12 (.803). ASU is the only team to beat each of the past three Pac-12 champions in those seasons as it topped Arizona the past two seasons and beat UCLA in 2012-13, all at home.
THEY WON'T QUIT: Scoring margins can be twisted and turned in many ways, but in ASU's 2-7 conference start, the margin in those games was just over a three-pointer (-3.1). ASU has trailed at the half in all seven of its losses, but had some big rallies fall just short. Quick notes on five second-half rallies.
SUN DEVIL SECOND-HALF RALLIES
@Stanford: Trailed 66-56 with 4:50 left, took 73-72 lead but lost 75-73 (17-7 run)
@California: Trailed 54-40 with 12:53 left, tied it at 65 at 2:25 (25-11 run over 10:28)
UW: Trailed by 12 with 19:34 left, cut it to 3 three times in final 10 minutes in 89-85 loss
@UCLA: Trailed by 12 in first half, held 74-72 lead with two minutes left in 77-74 loss
@USC: Trailed by 17 with 10:27 left, yet had 3PTA to go ahead 1:02 (26-9)
OBI ONE TO KEEP AN EYE ON: Obinna Oleka (Oh-BEE-nah Oh-LEH-ka), who is averaging 13.5 points in the past eight games, had no points and one rebound in the first two games, but since he only played five games for State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota two seasons ago and didn't play last year, a slow start was expected. Consider this: Before he took the court in the opener Nov. 13, his previous official game was Dec. 7, 2013...a 705-day break between games. He has scored in double digits in the past eight games.
TOP SCORING GAMES FOR OBINNA OLEKA
19 vs. Kennesaw State (11/18/15)
17 vs. Oregon (1/31/16)
17 vs. Oregon State (1/28/16)
17 vs. Arizona (1/3/16)
14 at California (1/21/16)
14 vs. Houston Baptist (12/19/15)
ONE CALENDAR YEAR: Last year after the Jan. 15 Utah game Tra Holder was shooting below 30 percent, had 15 buckets, two three-pointers and was averaging just over four points. This year he is averaging a team-best 15.5 points and has made 42 three-pointers. Already he has led the team in scoring in 14 games and has six 20-point games. He became the first Sun Devil to post five straight 20-point games since James Harden did it in his freshman season of 2007-08 and the first Pac-12 player to open league play with four straight 20-point games since Cal's Patrick Christopher in 2008-09. Tra had 23 vs. Cal-State Bakersfield on Dec. 28, then notched 24 vs. Arizona (1/3), 21 at USC (1/7), 26 at UCLA (1/9) and 20 vs. WSU (1/14). Since the CU win on Jan. 17, 2015 (past 41 games), he is shooting .712 (166-of-233) from the free throw line and is averaging 13.0 points (534 points).
YOU CAN CALL IT A COMEBACK: The Dec. 16 win at UNLV was the fifth-biggest halftime comeback (down 12, 37-25) in 27 years of Sun Devil hoops (1989-90 to present). It marked the largest ASU halftime comeback since Dec. 14, 2008, when ASU came back from 16 down to beat IUPUI at America West Arena. It also is the largest ASU halftime comeback in a road game since Feb. 12, 1994, when ASU came back from 17 down at the half to win at Stanford. ASU trailed 45-31 at the 17:12 mark but it was all Sun Devils after that, as ASU outscored UNLV 35-1. ASU held UNLV to 5-of-26 (.192) from the floor in the second half and grabbed 16 offensive rebounds which led to 16-1 advantage in second-chance points. ASU outrebounded UNLV 43-30, which included starting guards Gerry Blakes (11) and Tra Holder (career-high nine) grabbing 20. Holder had 19 and Willie Atwood 14 to lead the scoring.
LARGEST HALFTIME COMEBACK DEFICITS (1989-1990 TO PRESENT)
(17) @Stanford 46, ASU 29--Feb. 12, 1994/ASU 71, @Stanford 69
(16) IUPUI 34, ASU 18 (@Phoenix)--Dec. 14, 2008/ASU 59, vs. IUPUI 58 (OT)
(16) New Mexico St. 45, ASU 29--Mar. 15, 2000/ASU 83, NMSU 77 (NIT)
(16) Georgia 39, ASU 23--Dec. 29, 1989/ASU 62, Georgia 61
(12) @UNLV 37, ASU 25--Dec. 16, 2015/ASU 66, @UNLV 56
ASU 79, @CREIGHTON 77 (DEC. 2, 2015): ASU became the first team to beat CU in its building when it scores 75 (89-1) with the 79-77 win, as Savon Goodman led the way 23 points and seven boards. ASU, the second Pac-12 team to visit Creighton in the regular-season since 1978, fell behind by nine and was down eight at that half (41-33). ASU opened the half with a 14-4 run in the first 3:16 and shot 18-of-28 (.643) from the field in the scond half.
8+ POINTS HALFTIME DEFICIT WINS PAST 10 YEARS (2006-PRESENT)
(16) IUPUI 34, ASU 18 (@Phoenix/Dec. 14, 2008)/ASU 59, vs. IUPUI 58 (OT)
(12) @UNLV 37, ASU 25--Dec. 16, 2015/ASU 66, @UNLV 56
(8) @Creighton 41, ASU 33--Dec. 2, 2015)/ASU 79, @Creighton 77
ASU 67, #18 TEXAS A&M 54 (DEC. 5, 2015): ASU jumped out to a 33-19 halftime lead and then led by as much as 25 before notching a 67-54 win over #18 Texas A&M. Willie Atwood had 15 points, Tra Holder added 13, Gerry Blakes had 13/6 and Savon Goodman posted 10 points and 12 rebounds. ASU shot .364 from the floor, but held Texas A&M to 19-of-61 (.311), including just 6-of-27 (.222) in the first half. Kodi Justice added 10 points off the bench.