TEMPE, Ariz. (AP)—Arizona State is the nation’s third-best shooting team, hitting 51 percent from the field.
The 20th-ranked Sun Devils outdid themselves in a 69-38 rout of Oregon State on Thursday night, hitting 65.1 percent for the game, including making 16 of 18 shots (88.9 percent) in the second half.
“We were trying to figure out back there in the room who missed” the two shots after halftime, said James Harden, who scored 22 points on 10-of-11 shooting, his lone miss coming from beyond the arc.
For the record, it was Jamelle McMillan and Taylor Rohde.
“There always is room for improvement,” Sun Devils coach Herb Sendek said.
Arizona State (13-2, 2-1 Pac-10) rebounded quickly from a loss last weekend at California. The Sun Devils smothered the Beavers (6-7, 1-2) with their match-up zone, limiting them to a season-low 36.4 percent from the field.
The Beavers’ 38 points are the fewest the Sun Devils have allowed against a Pac-10 opponent in 31 years as a conference member.
Arizona State fans stand until the opponent’s first field goal of each half. In the second half, they didn’t sit until Rickey Claitt hit a jumper with 14:15 to go. By then, the Sun Devils led 39-17.
“I thought our guys were really dialed into what we needed to do defensively this evening,” Sendek said.
Rihards Kuksiks added 13 points for Arizona State, which has won nine of 10.
Oregon State was coming off an overtime victory over Southern California, its first Pac-10 win in two seasons. But the Beavers were baffled by Arizona State’s zone, and they often resorted to 3-pointers as the shot clock wound down.
The Beavers shot 4-of-20 from beyond the arc.
“We were playing with our game plan that we have at the beginning, and then they had a couple of stops on us, and we got frustrated and made it into a 3-point shooting game,” Oregon State coach Craig Robinson said. “That’s just not what we are. We’re sort of a grind-them-out, get-good-shots type of team. When you play that way, you can’t beat a good team.”
To top it off, Oregon State hit only two of its five free throws.
Lathen Wallace led Oregon State with 13 points.
It’s no surprise that the Beavers struggled to score. Arizona State had been allowing 59.8 points per game, third in the Pac-10. But the Sun Devils turned up their defense against the Beavers, who average 62.6 points, ninth in the conference.
On the offensive end, the Sun Devils present plenty of problems for opposing defenses. They have the Pac-10’s leading scorer (Harden, at 23.4 points per game) and the league’s best shooters from the field (Jeff Pendergraph, 66.4 percent) and from beyond the arc (Kuksiks, 2.8 made per game).
Pendergraph, who played with a sprained MCL in his right knee, did not score in the first half and finished with seven points.
“I’m sure he’s been sore,” Sendek said. “He’s been less than 100 percent. But you can’t detect that from the way that he’s carried himself. I think that’s really been good for our team.”
ASU also leads the Pac-10 in shooting from the field (51 percent) and the free throw line (76 percent).
But the Sun Devils struggled early against the Beavers’ zone defense, scoring only 15 points in the first 10 minutes.
That’s when Harden took over. He dunked off a fastbreak feed from Derek Glasser, hit a short jumper, converted a three-point play and connected from beyond the arc.
Harden scored 10 points in about 6 minutes, and by the time he was finished the Sun Devils led 25-15, on their way to a 30-15 halftime lead.
The Sun Devils are 21-5 when Harden scores at least 20 points.
Harden said he wanted to atone for a subpar performance at California, when he scored 26 points but didn’t shoot well.
“I wanted to bounce back from what happened at Cal, shooting 22 shots and only making nine, which is not usually me,” he said. “I wanted to come back home, my first (Pac-10) home game, and play a lot better than what I did.”