The Arizona State basketball team had fewer turnovers than its opposing team for the first time all season. The reason for this achievement, ASU coach Herb Sendek said, was the team's impressive ball movement.
The ability to share the ball proved to play a monumental role in Arizona State's 71-67 win Saturday against Washington State. The Sun Devils were smart with their dishes, made crisp passes, but more importantly played unselfish basketball. ASU had 18 assists in the game, and 75 percent of its made field goals were assisted.
"If you said at the halfway point in the Pac-12 season what is the single most improved area for this basketball team I would have to say our ball movement, our passing, our ability to play together," Sendek said. "If you go back and look in the rear view mirror, we were a team that obviously suffered from an awful lot of dribbling and ball sticking. I thought today it was just fun to watch."
Handling and taking care of the ball have been problems for the Sun Devils all season. The NCAA ruled freshman point guard Jahii Carson academically ineligible early in the season, and ASU would have to play this season without its highly touted playmaker. Former ASU sophomore Keala King was dismissed from the team midway through the year, and junior point guard Chris Colvin had his share of disciplinary issues.
Junior guard Trent Lockett took over the point guard position for four games before going down with an ankle injury against Oregon State. Although Colvin has played inconsistent this season, things started to click for him against Washington State.
"Trent went down so I know I had to step up," Colvin said. "It was either step up or move on, and I chose to step up. My team gave me confidence to do it and I just came out and did what I needed to do."
Colvin played the entire game and finished with a career high 16 points, as well as six rebounds and four assists. He controlled the offense and played a major role in ASU's terrific ball movement.
"I think Chris Colvin arguably played his best game as a Sun Devil," Sendek said. "He's settling in and starting to get more comfortable with what we're doing."
Colvin and his teammates played in sync, making the extra pass every chance they had, particularly early on.
"That was one thing coach stressed to us in practice," Colvin said. "That was one thing that we did in practice, so we wanted to carry it on to the game and it did. It paid dividends for us."
Freshman forward Jonathan Gilling had another great game, finishing with 10 points and a career high seven assists. ASU shot 54.5 percent from the field -- a statistic that can be credited to how well it passed the ball Saturday -- and it was the first game it had fewer turnovers than its opponent.
"We executed, played together, shared the ball and definitely for the first time had less turnovers than the other team," junior wing Carrick Felix said. "That was good for us.
"We can only keep moving forward. We battle every day in practice, we work hard every day, and I believe everything happens for a reason and I think it's going to pay off in the end. We've just got to keep working, keep grinding and keep believing."
Felix returns to form
Felix started Saturday's game aggressive and was relentless shooting the basketball, going 6-of-12 from the field and scoring 20 points. The junior credited his teammates for putting him in good positions throughout the game to put the ball in the hoop.
"I definitely have to thank my teammates for getting me open and getting me good looks," Felix said. "I just got myself in the right frame of mind right now and just ready to go on the road next week and get two more wins."