Arizona State beats No. 15 Xavier 102-86
By ASHTON FERGUSON, Associated Press
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Arizona State’s Bobby Hurley calls his current Sun Devils “the best offensive team” he’s ever coached.
Hard to dispute that on Friday.
Tra Holder scored a career-high 40 points, and Arizona State continued its offensive juggernaut in a 102-86 upset of No. 15 Xavier in the championship game of the Las Vegas Invitational.
“This is the best offensive team by far that I’ve coached,” said Hurley, whose team eclipsed the 90-point mark for the sixth time this season. “There are many ways that we can attack an opponent. We didn’t even have a great inside scoring game from the frontcourt (today), but the guards were unstoppable.
“(Xavier) is built on toughness and grit and defense. They’ve got guys that have been in the tournament, so to play this well was exciting to see.”
Holder scored 23 of his 40 points in the second half for Arizona State (6-0), which shot 55.9 percent from the field. The 6-foot-1 senior guard finished 14-of-22 shooting from the field, including 5 of 8 from 3-point range, and added four rebounds and four assists. He was named the tournament’s MVP.
“It feels great just to hoist a trophy and celebrate with the guys,” Holder said. “It’s something we worked for this preseason. . But we want to keep it going, stay level-headed and humble and keep working and getting after it.”
The Sun Devils trailed by 15 points in the first half but closed the half on a 15-2 run — capped by a leaning 3-pointer at the buzzer by Holder — and headed into the locker room trailing 46-44.
“(That run) hurt,” Xavier coach Chris Mack said. “You’d like to think we could be resilient enough to bounce back in the second half. But the live-ball turnovers at the end of the first half were, really, our own doing. You can’t have that.”
Holder gave Arizona State its first lead since the opening minutes after converting two free throws 45 seconds into the second half.
After the teams traded leads, Kodi Justice nailed a 3-pointer from the left corner to give Arizona State the lead for good at 56-55 with 16:29 to go. Justice drilled another 3 on the team’s next possession to give the Sun Devils a six-point lead and all the momentum.
Xavier (5-1) had no answer for the perimeter play of Arizona State the rest of the way. Shannon Evans II added 22 points for Arizona State, which also got 16 points from Justice and 13 from Remy Martin. The Sun Devils got 91 of their 102 points (89.2 percent) from guards.
“Any time you get reality served to you like this, you’ve got the opportunity to be real with yourself, be real with your teammates and correct it,” Mack said. “Hopefully, we can be man enough to accept what our reality is right now. And we’re not a very good defensive team.”
J.P. Macura led Xavier with 23 points on 7-of-11 shooting. Kerem Kanter, the younger brother of New York Knicks center Enes Kanter, added 12 points.
Trevon Bluiett, a two-time first-team Big East honoree and All-America candidate, was held to 11 points. The senior had scored at least 20 points in each of Xavier’s first five games.
“He’s a guy you focus on when you look at Xavier,” Hurley said. “You have a great level of respect for the player he is. We tried not to give him a lot of clean looks.”
Xavier: The Musketeers lost their first game since falling to Gonzaga 83-59 in the Elite Eight on March 25. Xavier likely will drop a few spots in the polls next week but has an opportunity to regroup by facing two ranked teams in a row in Baylor and Cincinnati.
Arizona State: The Sun Devils have scored 90 points in all six of their games this season and could find themselves in the Top 25 after defeating the Musketeers.
Xavier will host No. 22 Baylor in a matchup of Top 25 teams Tuesday.
Arizona State will have a week off before facing San Francisco at home on Dec. 2.
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