TEMPE, Ariz. -- The Evan Gordon piece fell into place Saturday for Arizona State, which is feeling so good about its strong start that Jordan Bachynski ran to center court to ring the Territorial Cup bell following another high-flying victory.
Gordon broke out of a season-long shooting slump he was never worried, and neither were the Sun Devils with a career-high 29 points as the Sun Devils ran past Sacramento State 90-70 at Wells Fargo Arena, moving to 6-1 for the first time in three seasons.
Gordon, who sat out last season after transferring from Liberty, played in front of his brother, NBA guard Eric, who flew in a few hours before the game and has been a positive influence as Evan has cranked his game up to expected speed.
He made his first shot, a 3-pointer, 61 seconds into the game and settled into a rhythm that included perimeter shots and penetration moves. Gordon made half of his 16 field goal attempts, going 5 for 9 from 3-point range, and went 8 for 9 from the free-throw line.
After the one (shot) gets down, it kind of releases all the pressure. You just kind of stop thinking about it, said Gordon, a 6-foot-1 guard who was Libertys leading scorer in his two seasons there.
Eric Gordon, who was one of the Suns' top offseason targets before the Hornets matched their free-agent offer sheet, has been sidelined with knee problems this season, and the Hornets loss has been brother Evans gain. Eric attended the Sun Devils games play in the Las Vegas Invitational last week, and he has provided support.
He (Eric) said, 'When you are shooting like that, take it to the hole and try to get the ball going through the hoop a couple more times before you start shooting outside.' My brother has been through a slump. Ive been in a slump before, and so, you know, just staying with it, I knew it was going to come, Evan Gordon said.
I talked to Coach (Herb) Sendek. Hes pulled me aside a couple of times. He told me its about your self-talk.
Sendek was impressed by the way Gordon did not take his shooting slump onto the other end. Gordon was 13 of 49 in the first six games and 7 for 34 from 3-point range.
A lot of times when someone struggles on offense, the rash spreads, so to speak, Sendek said. "All of a sudden, they are not into it defensively because their mind is someplace else. The one thing I have to give Evan a lot of credit for: When he had his offensive struggles early, his defense was really good. And thats not as easy as it may sound.
He is too good a player and too good a shooter to not turn the corner. It happens from time to time. Great hitters go through a hitting slump. Shooters sometimes go through those periods of time."
Gordon also had five assists and three steals in 38 minutes as the Sun Devils let his confidence build. And he was not alone. Carrick Felix continued a strong four-game run with 21 points and a career-high 12 rebounds. He has 83 points in the last four games and is shooting 59 percent (44 for 75) from the field for the season. Jahii Carson had 12 points and three assists, and freshman Eric Jacobsen had another impressive performance with career-highs in points (six) and rebounds (nine).
ASU led by 16, 46-30, at the half, and Sacramento State got no closer than 10 points in the second half. The Hornets (5-2) already had a Pac-12 victory under their belt coming in, a 74-71 win at Utah on Nov. 16 in which they dug out of a 13-point deficit in the second half.
It was a great team win, Gordon said.
Jacobsen, a 6-foot-10 freshman from Chandler Hamilton High, played his way into the top reserve spot at power forward and center ahead of 7-foot senior Ruslan Pateev early in the season, and he continued to show an affinity for physical play down low Saturday.
Jacobsen had four points and six rebounds in eight minutes in the first half and was particularly noticeable during a stretch in which ASU scored 15 of 19 points to take a 46-28 lead. Jacobsen had offensive rebounds on two consecutive possessions and made both free throws when he was fouled on a putback after the second. Late in the half, Jacobsen made a statement block on 6-foot-9, 290-pound Konner Veteto, rejecting the shot and retaining possession as Veteto fell to the floor. Felix then tipped in a Jacobsen miss at the other end for the 18-point lead.
The ball just came to me. I kept working for the ball. Hard work pays off, I guess, Jacobsen said modestly, adding that the biggest adjustment has been the physical part. Everyone is bigger, faster, stronger. I always try to play with confidence. I dont want to fear my opponent.
ASU was helped in that run when Sacramento State coach Brian Katz was ejected after being hit with two technical fouls with 3:59 remaining. The Hornets had been called for offensive fouls on their two previous possessions, the second when Jacobsen took a charge from starting guard Dylan Garrity.
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