Berkeley, CA– No. 16 Arizona State (15-4) came into Berkeley 2-4 in Pac-12 play after winning their first 12 non-conference games to start the season. After losing to Stanford last Wednesday, the Sun Devils rebounded to beat the Cal Golden Bears (7-13) 81-73 on Saturday night.
Arizona State led by as many as 16 in the second half after guard Remy Martin hit a three with 17 minutes to go to make it 50-34, but Cal responded in the second half with one of their better performances of the season and cut the lead to 62-58 on a Marcus Lee layup with seven minutes remaining. The Sun Devils responded with three consecutive three-pointers, including two from guard Shannon Evans II to go on and hold off the Golden Bears.
Arizona State was led by their guard dominant lineup of Tra Holder with 13 points, Evans II with 10 points and Martin with 12 points. The trio is one of the better guard combos in the country, running a great three man weave, sharply attacking the defense off the dribble, and penetrating and kicking for open looks. Coach Bobby Hurley relies on them to generate most of their offense.
The Sun Devils’ transfer via Ohio State, Mickey Mitchell, had one of his best games of the season, making his presence felt all over the floor with 12 points, 11 rebounds, and two blocks in 25 minutes.
Cal was led by senior Marcus Lee, who also had one of his best games this season, pouring in 23 points on 10-of-13 FG, grabbing eight rebounds, and swatting three shots. Lee was too much for Arizona State’s big men, almost fouling out all three Sun Devils who guarded him (Romello White and De’Quon Lake each fouled out while Vitaliy Shibel had four fouls). Lee tied his career high point total, despite going 3-of-10 from the free-throw line. Cal freshman, Darius McNeil rebounded from some poor outings to score 16 points, including four three’s.
The difference in the game was bench production. Arizona State is a deep team, with nine players getting double-digit minutes, while Cal mostly goes six players deep. Arizona State’s bench outscored Cal’s 41-10. Cal fell to 1-6 in Pac-12 play.
Both teams return to action Thursday night – Arizona State returns home to play Utah (11-7), while Cal heads to UCLA (13-7).
Tra Holder – Holder, a 6’1 senior, is averaging 19 points a game this season, although his production has cooled in the last six games, coinciding with Arizona State’s skid. He finished tonight with 13 points on 4-of-11 FG (1-4 3PT) and four assists. Holder is an advanced pick and roll player with a smooth pull-up jumper. He is patient, doesn’t rush his shots, and he understands how to use the angles off pick and rolls and how to use his body to get the defender on his back. He is a great distributor with above average vision and timing on his passes. He showed the ability to shoot on the move, off the dribble, and create off the dribble for his teammates. While he is a dynamically skilled offensive player, he is limited by his strength and size. He doesn’t quite have the elite ability to finish amongst longer players and at times can let his passiveness get the best of him.
Mickey Mitchell – Mitchell only averages six points and six rebounds in 25 minutes a game, but showed a lot more than that Saturday night. He finished with 12 points, 11 rebounds, and three blocks and has the potential to play professionally as a glue guy. At 6-7 he is pretty athletic and very tough. He showed good burst after a pump fake along baseline and good lift for a missed dunk over Marcus Lee. He has enough of a handle to bring the ball up in transition and facilitate on the perimeter, although he still needs to improve in this area. He showed good hand eye coordination on a no-step put back dunk. He knows his role and doesn’t play outside of himself, keenly aware of his man on defense and who to get the ball to on offense. He showed good help defense recognition and good timing on blocks. He is not afraid to get physical and plays hard. With two years left, if he can improve his shooting and handle, he’s one to keep an eye on.
This article was written by Will Winston, a correspondent and scout for NetScouts Basketball. You can follow us on Facebook, or on twitter. We are looking for those interested in our basketball scout certification program. For information contact us and forward your resume.