At 11-0 as one of four unbeaten Division I teams andranked No. 4 nationally, Arizona State is off to the best start in programhistory. The Sun Devils are now hoping to put a bow on a perfect nonconferenceseason with a win over visiting Pacific on Friday afternoon.
The game will be the final pre-Christmas test forcoach Bobby Hurley’s squad, which will then have eight days to prepare for ahuge Pac-12 opener Dec. 30 at No. 19 Arizona. In their last outing, againstvisiting Longwood on Tuesday, the Sun Devils struggled some with the Lancers’zone in the first half and led only 35-30 at the break. But the hosts caughtfire in the second half, outscoring Longwood 60-31 over the final 20 minutesand finishing with 22 assists and 26 forced turnovers while making a bigimpression on the visiting coach with the 95-61 win. “This is going to sound crazy,but they’ve got a Final Four formula,” said Longwood’s Jayson Gee, who has 30years of coaching experience. “(They’ve) got senior guards, the ability toscore, (they) can defend and have a low-post presence. They will be scary inthe NCAA Tournament.”
TV: 3 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network
ABOUT PACIFIC (5-7): The Tigers have lost threestraight and are in the midst of a brutal stretch which started with an 81-76home loss to 9-2 UNLV last Saturday and will continue with road games atArizona State and No. 15 Gonzaga in their West Coast Conference opener nextThursday. Guards Roberto Gallinat and Kendall Small combined for half (38 points)of the team’s scoring output against the Rebels and are averaging 14.3 and 9.9,respectively, on the season. Guard Miles Reynolds (11.8) and forward AnthonyTownes (10.4) also have double-digit averages while 6-foot-5 forward Jahlil Tripp isaveraging 8.7 and a team-best 9.4 rebounds.
ABOUT ARIZONA STATE (11-0): Senior guards TraHolder (21.5 points) and Shannon Evans II (17.5) continue to pace the SunDevils, and the duo also is averaging a combined 9.6 assists per outing.Forward Romello White (14.8 points, team-leading 8.7 rebounds) and swingmanKodi Justice (13.8 points) also are averaging double figures while freshmanguard Remy Martin (9.8) and juco-transfer forward De’Quon Lake (9.0, 6.2rebounds) have been key contributors off the bench. Another reserve, forwardMickey Mitchell, has played three games since becoming eligible aftertransferring last season from Ohio State, and provided a big spark againstLongwood with 12 points, five rebounds, two steals and two blocks in 27 minutesand could be moved into the starting lineup.
1. Arizona State holds a 3-2 lead in the series,but this will be the first meeting since 1994.
2. As of Thursday, No. 1 Villanova (11-0), No. 7Miami (9-0) and No. 12 TCU (10-0) were the three other undefeated Division I teams.
3. Holder, Evans and Justice have combined for 923-pointers and a 40.5-percent accuracy rate from long range.
PREDICTION: Arizona State 88, Pacific 72