Coming into the season, Arizona State had a huge gap to fill. With the loss of Carrick Felix to the NBA, it needed a catalyst to spark the team on both sides of the court.
Felix averaged 14.6 points last season and was a team leader, a spot that would seemingly be hard to fill. However, with back-to-back impressive games, ASU may have just found its guy with senior Penn State transfer Jermaine Marshall.
In the first two games of the season, Marshall has dominated against inferior opponents. In the season opener against UMBC, Marshall had 19 points, four steals, two rebounds and two assists.
Against Miami of Ohio on Tuesday night at Wells Fargo Arena, Marshall, who averaged 15.3 points last year with Penn State, showed off his smooth shooting motion, tallying 18 points, including three rebounds en route to what would become a 90-54 ASU win.
"It was great to be able to shoot the ball that well, " Marshall said. "I just try to keep working hard so I just keep listening to everybody and on top of that just staying in the gym. I really try to thrive on playing the full-length of the floor and I really try to play on both ends."
A key player in a 34-9 ASU run that started following the first media timeout, Marshall, just over six minutes into the game, made a jumper, drew the foul and headed to the line for a potential three-point play.
Though he missed the free throw, Marshall wasted no time to make up for his error. Grabbing the rebound off his missed attempt, he put the ball back up and scored, putting ASU up 13-11 with 13:51 left to play in the first half and ASU never looked back.
In that moment, Marshall outhustled every player on the court and showed his strengths as a veteran leader despite being placed in a new environment this year.
"Jermaine just has a poise that comes from success and experience," ASU head coach Herb Sendek said. "He's able to make plays, but even more than that his presence helps elevates the confidence level of our team. I think his presence even helps (sophomore guard) Jahii (Carson) feel better about us. I think his presence has a very positive impact on our young players."
In addition to the scoring of Marshall as well as Carson's 18 points and eight assists, ASU dominated the glass on both sides of the ball.
In the first half, ASU outrebounded Miami 26-12 and by the time the last buzzer sounded, ASU outrebounded it 48-27.
Senior center Jordan Bachynski had his second straight double-double, with 16 points on 8 of 10 shooting -- and 10 rebounds in addition to his four blocks.
"Today they decided, for a lot of the game, to go with a smaller lineup and talking to (assistant) coach (Stan) Johnson especially, he said I need to punish them inside," Bachynski said. "When a team goes small, that can't be to get us at a disadvantage that should be a huge advantage for us. We got great guys who can play inside. Even our guards can play inside really well. Our freshman (guard) Chance (Murray), he's a great post-up guard. That was definitely a goal to attack the rim an be aggressive inside."
After establishing its inside game, perimeter shooting was huge for ASU. Going 16 of 31 in three-point shooting, ASU had eight players make at least one three-pointer.
Marshall lead the team with four three-pointers, but freshman guard Calaen Robinson got in the game late and delivered with three three-pointers of his own.
Again, young players got minutes and they continue to fight for their spot in the lineup. Murray had six points, five rebounds and two assists in 19 minutes and Robinson had 11 points, four assists and two rebounds in only 11 minutes.
"Our three freshman (Murray, Robinson, and freshman guard Egor Koulechov) all have outstanding promise and all three guys play with a level of poise when they're out there," Sendek said. "I think another thing that is obvious to me is that they keep getting better.
"Even though we're at the very beginning stages of the season, I've already seen improvement. When you tell them something, they really try to apply it which is really encouraging."
With the additions of the six newcomers, especially the two freshman guards, Murray and Robinson in the backcourt, the Sun Devils not only have a bright outlook for the games ahead, but Marshall also realizes the intensity that the young players are bringing to the team.
"It's competitive," Marshall said. "That's two young guys that are hungry and they want to fight. On our side, they're just getting Jahii and I a lot better because they're doing that. Standing up to them everyday and going up against those two guys everyday, it's just makes our team and lot better and it makes me and Jahii a lot better.
"I think a lot is possible, I think we got a lot of work to do. Just keep getting better, especially defensively, we had some slip-ups at the end of the game and I feel like to be a great team, that can't happen."