Arizona State came into Pullman on Saturday afternoon and defeated Washington State by a score of 67-55. The Cougars were without Josh Hawkinson who is recovering from a swollen ankle he suffered against Arizona on Wednesday night.
Ever since losing to Washington in overtime at the beginning of January, the Cougars have been playing the same basketball game over and over. The lack of development and competitive play has been concerning, especially considering that there are only seven games left before the Pac-12 tournament.
The Cougars had as good of a chance as ever to win today as Arizona State sits at 11th in the Pac-12 standings. The Sun Devils had other plans, though, as they picked up their third conference win. Tra Holder had a team-high 16 points for ASU and was one of four Devils to hit double figure, along with Andre Spight, Gerry Blakes, and Obinna Oleka.
As has been the case so often in conference play, the offense struggled mightily, scoring just 0.86 points per possession. This, against an ASU defense that had allowed 1.11 points per possession against Pac-12 foes. The loss of Josh Hawkinson, who sat out with an ankle injury, surely didn't help, but it really was the same old issues that plagued WSU, which shot 46% from the field compared to Arizona State's 36%, but the turned the ball over 17 times, leading to 16 points for the Sun Devils.
Some of the the Sun Devils's shooting issues were mitigated by the fact that they hit the right kinds of shots -- they found fire from behind the three-point line in the first half, shooting 7-of-14 to take an 8-point lead to the break that was never seriously threatened.
Valentine Izundu and his 7-foot-4 wingspan returned to action after missing the past eight games with a foot injury. Izundu registered a handful of blocks and added 10 points, tying a season-high. However, the Cougars' injury woes continued when Conor Clifford took a nasty fall after rolling his ankle half-way through the second half.
Clifford was fouled down low in front of the rim and landed awkwardly before taking a spill. It was apparent he was in was in pain and he needed help off the court. Perhaps getting Izundu back was perfect timing as Clifford could be out for awhile, but the two of them have completely different skill sets and losing Clifford isn't good for WSU's interior offensive game.
Charles Callison led the way for Washington State, scoring 15 points, although much of that was mitigated by four turnovers, most of them of the live ball variety, leading to fast break baskets for ASU. Izundu and Ike Ireogbu added 10 points each.
The Cougars now will head to the mountain schools to take on Colorado and Utah and their strong home-court advantages.