TEMPE — Arizona State men’s basketball has spent all season trying to find a rhythm.
The Sun Devils have consistently ranked among college basketball’s worst offenses and toward the bottom of the Pac-12, but they entered Saturday’s game against Oregon State fresh off of two of their best wins of the season in a row.
ASU took advantage of that matchup and continued its strong play in a 73-53 win over the Beavers, improving to 10-15 and 6-9 in conference play. Oregon State fell to 3-22 overall and 1-13 in the Pac-12.
The Sun Devils came out of the gates hot, taking an 8-2 advantage in the opening 92 seconds as they seemed to pick up right where they left off after a dynamic performance against Oregon on Thursday.
Remarkably, ASU never led by fewer than six points for the remainder of the night as it consistently produced quality offense against an Oregon State team that struggled to do the same.
The Sun Devils led 42-29 by the end of the first half behind exceptional offense, as they shot 52.9 percent in that period.
They then seemed to effectively cement the victory early in the second period, which they opened with a 3-pointer by sophomore guard Jay Heath and an emphatic dunk by sophomore forward Alonzo Gaffney to extend the advantage to 18.
ASU continued to cruise from that point forward as it had one of its better offensive nights of the season, shooting 45.2 percent from the field.
“I thought our approach was very good coming out, just the way we played offense,” ASU head coach Bobby Hurley said of the balanced performance. “Moved the ball, shared it. 17 assists tonight overall was very good.”
The Sun Devils consistently found their way to the rim with little resistance, scoring 38 points in the paint.
ASU also found a good deal of success in transition off of opponent errors, turning 19 turnovers into 20 points and scoring 15 fastbreak points overall.
Hurley said that was a point of emphasis for ASU coming in against a shorthanded team playing its third game in five nights.
“We wanted to try to pressure them a little more and be able to force them to get back on defense,” Hurley said. “That was something we talked about pregame.”
Beyond those takeaways, the Sun Devils played strong defense overall, holding the Beavers to 38.9 percent shooting from the field and 10.5 percent from deep.
Senior guard Marreon Jackson led ASU with 15 points, his sixth straight game in double digits and third straight shooting better than 50 percent from the field. Heath also had 13 points, while senior forward Kimani Lawrence and Graham added 11 and 12, respectively, and sophomore guard DJ Horne also had 10.
The Sun Devils have now earned two of their largest margins of victory in consecutive outings and have won three straight games in Pac-12 play for the first time this year.
“This is the perfect time to start reaching your peak or getting close to it, entering tournament play, so we just want to keep going and building off these wins,” Jackson said.
ASU will look to continue its strong play when it travels to face No. 13 UCLA, which it upset in triple overtime the last time they faced, at 7 p.m on Monday.
Here is more on how ASU’s win unfolded.
— 19:06 first half; ASU 47 Oregon State 29: Sophomore forward Alonzo Gaffney extended ASU’s lead to a game-high 18 points on a fastbreak dunk as it began the second half with consecutive buckets.
— 9:20 first half; ASU 27 Oregon State 13: Senior forward Kimani Lawrence converted an and-one to give ASU a game-high 14-point lead.
—16:51 first half; ASU 10 Oregon State 2: Sophomore guard Jay Heath hit a layup to put ASU up 10-2 early.
END OF FIRST HALF: ASU led Oregon State 42-29 at the end of the first half behind a strong offensive performance.
— Arizona State (9-15; 5-9) is set to take on Oregon State (3-21; 1-13) at Desert Financial Arena in Tempe at 6 p.m AZT on Saturday. The game will be televised on ESPN2.
— Despite returning several of their most important players, the Beavers have been surprisingly dreadful this season after shocking the college basketball world with six straight postseason wins last March, three in Las Vegas en route to a Pac-12 Tournament championship and three in the NCAA Tournament as a No. 12 seed before losing in the Elite Eight, after only being a .500 team in conference play during the regular season at 10-10.
— Oregon State has lost 11 straight games since a Dec. 30 home win over Utah, including eight times by double digits over that span.
— As of Feb. 19, Oregon State is ranked No. 234 in the KenPom standings, which is not only last among all Pac-12 teams but last among all six of the so-called high-major conferences. The Beavers are remarkably 100 spots worse than the No. 11 Pac-12 team, Cal, which is No. 124.
— Oregon State is No. 146 in adjusted offensive efficiency with an effective field goal rate that ranks No. 233 on KenPom, weighed down significantly by poor 3-point shooting at just 31.1 percent, which is 296th nationally, and poor free-throw shooting, at 290th in the country.
— Defensively, the Beavers are as bad as any major conference team in the country, outside the top-300 in four major categories: adjusted efficiency, effective field goal percentage, two-point defense, and offensive rebound percentage allowed.