PULLMAN, Wash. (AP) — The Arizona State Sun Devils rank among the worst 3-point shooting teams in the Pac-12 Conference, but the Washington State Cougars became the latest victims of ASU’s recent improvement from long range.
The Sun Devils sank 7 of 14 shots from beyond the arc in the first half to help them take control of the game early in a 67-55 victory Saturday afternoon.
“We get up a lot of shots every single day,” said Andre Spight, who came off the bench to sink three of ASU’s nine treys. “I think that’s why they’ve been going in.”
The Sun Devils (13-11, 3-8 Pac-12) benefited from WSU’s lackluster defense on 3-pointers in the opening half.
“We just let them get loose and get open,” Cougars guard Charles Callison said. “We didn’t have good defensive position or a hand up on them.”
The last-place Cougars (9-14, 1-10) lost their ninth consecutive game.
“It’s very exhausting, very,” Callison said “It’s very stressful, but we’ve just got to stay mentally strong and keep fighting and keep going.”
WSU forward Josh Hawkinson, the Cougars’ leading scorer and rebounder, sat out with a sprained ankle. Junior Longrus, who started for Hawkinson, was limited by a groin injury. Starting center Conor Clifford was helped off the court midway through the second half with a lower-body injury.
WSU coach Ernie Kent said all three players were hurt in Thursday’s loss to Arizona. Kent said he’s uncertain about the status of the injured players as the Cougars prepare to play five of their remaining seven conference games on the road.
Tra Holder led Arizona State’s balanced offense with 16 points. Spight and Obinna Oleka both scored 13, and Gerry Blakes scored all 11 of his points in the second half. Blakes added rebounds and three steals.
“I thought our guys played well in the first half,” Arizona State coach Bobby Hurley said. “Gerry really had some good minutes to start the second half on defense, which led to offense.
“From there, it was a little bit sloppy at times for us. When you have a team down, you have to keep them down.”
The Cougars never threatened after falling behind 40-32 at the half, then allowing Blakes to score the first seven points of the second half.
Callison led the Cougars with 15 points. Ike Iroegbu and Valentine Izundu both added 10. Izundu, a part-time starting center who came off the bench after missing eight games with a foot injury, also recorded seven rebounds and three blocked shots.
“It was hard watching when I was hurt,” Izundu said. “But it was good to get back in the game.”
“He looked good out there,” Spight said. “He definitely impacted the game with his size and athleticism.”
Arizona State: Starters Eric Jacobsen, Willie Atwood and Gerry Blakes did not score in the first half. Tra Holder and Andre Spight (11 points each) and Obinna Oleka (10) combined to score 33 of ASU’s 40 first-half points.
Washington State: Saturday’s loss clinched a fifth straight losing season in conference play for the Cougars. They finished 9-9 in 2010-11 following two more losing conference seasons. Over the past 21 years, the Cougars have posted just two winning conference records, plus a pair of .500 marks. WSU is trying to snap a three-year string of losing overall records since putting together six consecutive winning seasons.
COUGARS TO THE RESCUE
The Sun Devils had lost two in a row and five of six since beating WSU 84-73 in Tempe on Jan. 14.
Arizona State hosts USC on Friday.
Washington State visits Colorado on Thursday.
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