GAME NOTES: The Arizona State Sun Devils take a four-game win streak into their Pac-12 Conference opener against the visiting Washington Huskies on Thursday.
The Huskies also have a bit of momentum coming into this contest, winning each of their last two games. The most recent victory was a 73-67 triumph at home over Hartford. Washington, which is 8-5 overall, will stay in the Copper State for its next bout against No. 1 Arizona.
Arizona State has recovered nicely after a rough stint in the Wooden Legacy by posting four straight wins. The most recent victory came over UC Irvine last Saturday. The Sun Devils are now 11-2 overall, including a perfect 8-0 mark at home. They will be the hosts once again this Sunday when the Washington State Cougars come to town.
It's been awhile since Arizona State topped Washington. The Huskies swept the season series in 2012-13, and have now claimed wins in seven straight encounters with the Sun Devils. The winning streak has lifted Washington to a 40-36 advantage in the all-time series.
Washington shot 58.8 percent from the floor and outscored Hartford, 19-5, from the free-throw line in the second half to fend off the Hawks the last time out. C.J. Wilcox tallied a game-high 23 points in the win, while Andrew Andrews nailed 11 free throws and finished with 19 points.
Wilcox (20.5 ppg) can often be counted on to carry the load offensively as he ranks second in the conference in scoring. The 23-point showing he had against Hartford was his first 20-point effort since doing so in five of the first six games of the season. Andrews (13.1 ppg) can score, but is not an overly efficient shooter (.374 FG percentage). Nigel Williams-Goss (12.6 ppg, 4.4 apg) has been solid during his freshman campaign, and Perris Blackwell (12 ppg, 7.3 rpg) anchors the team in the paint. Washington is scoring 80.6 ppg, but ranks next-to-last in the league in field goal percentage (.450) while permitting an average of 79.2 ppg.
The normally potent Sun Devils made up for an off night from the floor (.421 FG percentage) against UC Irvine by tightening up on defense. They held the Anteaters to 40.3 percent shooting and forced 19 turnovers, while Jordan Bachynski had six of the team's nine blocks.
Herb Sendek's squad has been performing much better offensively as a whole this season, as the Sun Devils are scoring 79.3 ppg while connecting on 48.6 percent of their field goal attempts. They have also been effective on defense, limiting the opposition to 63.8 ppg and 38.6 percent shooting. Bachynski (12.5 ppg, 9.8 rpg, 4.8 bpg) is an intimidating force in the paint, as he leads the nation in blocks and has accumulated eight double-doubles, although only two have come in the last seven games. Jahii Carson (19.3 ppg, 5.4 apg) is an efficient scorer and a skilled passer, while Jermaine Marshall (15.5 ppg) is also adept at putting points on the board.
A year ago these teams were fairly even, with each finishing 9-9 in league action. The Sun Devils are much improved this time around, and should be able to collect a victory over the often inconsistent Huskies.
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