The Arizona State Sun Devil men's basketball team (14-13; 4-10) faces the Pac-12 Mountain teams for the first time this year as it faces No. 22 Utah on Thursday (Feb. 25) and then has a Sunday afternoon tilt at Colorado on Feb. 28. Tim Healey and Kyle Dodd have the call on the Sun Devil Sports Radio Network (620 AM on Thursday), presented by MidFirst. Ted Robinson has both games for Pac-12-Network, with Matt Muehlebach on the Utah call and Don MacLean on the call Sunday at CU. ASU beat then No. 23 USC 74-67 Feb. 12 and also topped then No. 18 Texas A&M 67-54 back on Dec. 5 for its wins over ranked teams this year.
TWEETABLES ABOUT @SUNDEVILHOOPS
√ Obi Oleka: 39-43 (.907) FTs in Pac-12 games, best in the league
√ ASU is averaging 8.1 threes made per game, tied for first with USC in the Pac-12
√ Willie Atwood: 16 double-digit scoring games/15 games without scoring last year
√ ASU has played eight games that were decided by five points or less (and a 12-pt OT L)
√ Obi Oleka: 11.6 ppg in past 16 games and 48-54 (.889) FTs/6.4 ppg first 10 games
√ Tra Holder: 16.8 ppg. past 17 games and is 39-88 (.443) from 3PT in that time
√ Willie Atwood: 78-100 (.780) from FTs on the year; 8th in Pac-12
√ Averaging 40.8 ppg in second half (34.3 in the first half)
√ Obi Oleka 65-81 (.802) in FTs overall, 4th in the Pac-12
√ Sun Devils averaging 9.3 three-pointers in 14 Pac-12 games, tops in the league
√ ASU has eight wins over top-100 teams (more than Iowa, Texas Tech, Purdue, Louisville)
OBI ONE TO KEEP AN EYE ON: It was the Jan. 14 WSU game where junior Obinna Oleka (Oh-BEE-nah Oh-LEH-ka) began to emerge as he has been in double figures in 10 of the past 11 games and is averaging 12.7 points and is 33-of-36 (.917) from the free throw line in that time. Only Tra Holder (13.4) is averaging more in the past 11. Obi also has three of his four double-doubles in that span. Oleka 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.
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)
WILLIE THEN AND NOW: Last season Willie Atwood averaged 11.6 minutes, scored 92 total points (3.0 per game) and was 31-of-50 (.620) 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). He made just 11 three-pointers last year but has 34 this year.
THIS IS GOOD FOR THE LEAGUE: ASU might be near .500 overall and 4-10 in the loop, but that probably is a good example of how solid the Pac-12 is this year. The Sun Devils have eight wins over RPI top-100 teams (as of Feb. 22 rankings). ASU beat Texas A&M (24), USC (30), Oregon State (35), Creighton (82), Belmont (84), UCSB (96), NC State (98) and Stephen F. Austin (100).
TRA'S IMPROVEMENT: Tra Holder enters the weekend averaging 15.1 points per game, up 8.1 points from last year's 7.0 average. Thanks to the folks at Stats Inc. we know that mark is the fifth-best in the Pac-12 with two weeks remaining.
PAC-12 MOST IMPROVED POINTS PER GAME
Dorian Pickens, Stanford, +9.4 (2.0/11.4)
Jakob Poeltl, Utah, +9.0 (9.1/18.1)
Roscoe Allen, Stanford +8.3 (7.3/15.6)
Kyle Kuzma, Utah +8.3 (3.3/11.6)
Tra Holder, Arizona State +8.1 (7.0/15.1)
52,961: With two road crowds expected this weekend, might be worht noting the Sun Devils have had good practice this year in tough environments. In early December ASU had a four-game stretch that included three road games and home game vs. a SEC ranked team. ASU won at Creighton (Dec. 2) and at UNLV (Dec. 16) and lost at #5 Kentucky (Dec. 12), playing in front of 52,961 in those three games. The home game in that stretch? A 67-54 win over No. 18 Texas A&M (in which ASU led by as much as 25) on Dec. 5, which itself was coming off wins over Gonzaga and Texas.
LOOKING AHEAD: Transfer Shannon Evans arrived at ASU after having spent two seasons under Coach Hurley at Buffalo. As a sophomore last year he averaged 15.4 points, 3.2 rebounds and 4.6 assists led the Bulls to the NCAA Tournament as he earned second-team All-MAC honors. As a freshman he averaged 8.5 points and 3.3 assists per game and was named to the All-MAC Freshman Team. He played in all 29 games off the bench posting one of the highest minute totals amongst all bench players nationally (26.4 minutes per game). He is sitting out this year but will have two years to play starting in 2016-17.
SUN DEVIL WINS OVER RANKED TEAMS PAST 10 SEASONS
ASU 74, #23 USC 67/Feb. 12, 2016
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
NOV. 23-DEC. 16: From the end of November until mid-December, ASU had a seven-game stretch (which included just two home games) that was solid. The Sun Devils won 79-77 at Creighton on Dec. 2 (who was 89-0 when scoring 75 points in its home arena and in front of 16,282 people screaming in blue shirts), topped #18 Texas A&M 67-54 (who beat Gonzaga and Texas) on Dec. 5 and lost at No. 5 Kentucky (Dec. 12). Prior to Creighton, the Sun Devils beat 2015 NCAA Tournament team NC State and dropped an overtime game to Marquette in Brooklyn. It also beat 19-game winner from year ago UCSB. ASU then had Texas A&M down 25 in the second half before notching the 13-point win on Dec. 5, and finished it up with the comeback win at UNLV on Dec. 16.
QUICK COACH NOTE: Buffalo was 285-369 (.436) in its first 22 seasons after going Division I (1991-2013). Under Coach Hurley the Bulls were 42-20 (.678) in his two seasons.
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.
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 railed 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)
TRA'S TREYS AND OTHER THINGS: 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 15.1 points and has made 47 three-pointers. Already he has led the team in scoring in 15 games and has seven 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. Since the CU win on Jan. 17, 2015 (past 44 games), he is shooting .710 (174-of-245) from the free throw line and is averaging 12.9 points.
THREE ROADIES? When you toss out neutral sites and talk true road games, the 2015-16 season is just the second time since 1989-90 (also in 2010-11) that ASU played three non-conference road games, and they did it in a two-week span. ASU won at Creighton 79-77 on Dec. 2, lost at #5 Kentucky 72-58 on Dec. 12 and won at UNLV 66-56 on Dec. 16.
SEASONS OF THREE NON-CONFERENCE ROAD GAMES (1978-79 TO PRESENT)
2015-16 (at Creighton, #5 Kentucky and UNLV)
2010-11 (at New Mexico, Baylor and Nevada)
1989-90 (at San Francisco, Northern Arizona and Kansas)
1982-83 (at DePaul, Ohio State and Kansas State)
1981-82 (at Kansas, Utah and Marquette)
1978-79 (at Purdue, Hawaii and San Diego State)
YOU CAN CALL IT A COMEBACK: The Dec. 16 win at UNLV was the fifth-biggest halftime comeback (down 12, 37-25) in past 27 years of Sun Devil hoops (1989-90 to present). It marked the largest 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,. 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) 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
EJ MAKES SHOTS: He didn't take a lot of them, but when he did, he made them. Eric Jacobsen shot .626 from the field (102-of-163) last season, the fourth-best season mark in Sun Devil history. Jacobsen averaged 28.6 minutes, 8.3 points and 5.9 rebounds last year in 34 games after averaging 8.8 minutes, 2.1 points and 1.8 rebounds in his first two seasons.
SUN DEVIL CAREER GAMES
132, Jon Gilling (2011-15)
131, Derek Glasser (2006-10)
130, Ty Abbott (2007-11)
129, Jerren Shipp (2006-10)
126, Jeff Pendergraph (2005-09)
125, Eric Jacobsen (2012-present)
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 10/12. 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.
GERRY: Inglewood native Gerry Blakes averaged 11.1 points and 4.2 rebounds last year after playing two seasons at San Bernardino Valley College (2012-14)...SBVC coach was ASU alumni Quincy Brewer, who played on the Sun Devil 1994-95 Sweet Sixteen team...had 24 at WSU on Feb. 13 (including ASU's final 16 in 4:24)...in Feb. 15 win at UW, he had 17 points in 5:23 of the second half (11:05 to 5:42) and ASU needed every bucket to stop an eight-game skid against UW and give ASU its first win in Seattle since another southpaw (with a small beard) was doing his thing in 2008.
GERRY BLAKES CAREER 20-POINT GAMES (6)
24 at Washington State (2/13/15)
23 at Washington (2/15/15) and vs. Colgate (11/29/14)
22 vs. Belmont (11/16/15)
21 vs. Alabama @Kansas City (11/25/14)
20 at Marquette (12/16/14)
VS. UTAH: ASU records have the Utes on top of the series 29-21 in an old Border Conference and Western Athletic Conference rivalry that dates to the early 1960s...ASU is 3-5 in the past four seasons against Utah but scoring hasn't been easy. ASU is averaging 56.5 points...ASU’s three wins vs. the Utes in Tempe have been by a total of nine points and all were in Tempe.
ASU VS. UTES IN PAC-12 ERA (3-5)
@Utah 83, ASU 41/Feb. 26, 2015
Utah 76, ASU 59/Jan. 15, 2015
@Utah 86, ASU 63/Feb. 23, 2014
ASU 79, Utah 75/Jan. 23, 2014
@Utah 60, ASU 55/Feb. 13, 2013
ASU 55, Utah 54 OT/Jan. 2, 2013
ASU 57, Utah 52/Feb. 9, 2012
@Utah 64, ASU 43/Jan. 21, 2012
LAST WIN OVER CU: ASU 78, CU 72 (1/17/15): ASU made 15-of-21 (.714) from the floor in the second half and shot .553 (26-of-47) for the game...the .553 shooting was the best by the Sun Devils in its past 42 Pac-12 games, dating to Feb. 2, 2013, when it was 37-of-58 (.638) from the floor at Washington...ASU had five players in double figures as Shaq McKissic had 16, Bo Barnes had 13 off the bench, Gerry Blakes had 12 and Eric Jacobsen and Tra Holder had 10 each
VS. COLORADO IN PAC-12 ERA (4-4/3-1 IN TEMPE/1-3 IN BOULDER)
@CU 87, ASU 81/Mar. 1, 2015
ASU 78, CU 72/Jan. 17, 2015
@CU 61, ASU 52/Feb. 19, 2014
ASU 72, CU 51/Jan. 25, 2014
ASU 63, @CU 62 OT/Feb. 16, 2013
ASU 65, CU 56/Jan. 6, 2012
CU 63, ASU 49/Feb. 11, 2012
@CU 69, ASU 54/Jan. 19, 2012
VS. COLORADO: Since CU joined the league the series both teams have won four games, with CU getting a sweep in 2011-12 and ASU getting a sweep in 2012-13...in 2014-15 ASU beat Colorado 78-72 in Tempe (Jan. 17) but CU topped ASU 87-81 in Boulder on March 1...in 2013-14 ASU topped CU 72-51 in Tempe on Jan. 25, while CU beat ASU 61-52 in Boulder on Feb. 19...ASU has won four of the past six vs. CU...CU is 29-of-100 (.290) from the three-point stripe in past six games vs. ASU.