TEMPE, Ariz. — Arizona State coach Bobby Hurley made sure to touch hands with his point guard, Tra Holder, at the end of Sunday’s game. In case, Hurley said he felt like taking a few shots in the gym himself.
Holder had the afternoon’s hot hand, scoring 19 of his career high 35 points in another big first half for Arizona State. The Sun Devils rolled to a 99-78 win over California-Irvine.
Holder, a senior, made 13 of his 15 shots for the game and missed just once in each half.
“It kind of felt good every time I shot. Even one of 3s I missed in the first half, I thought it was going in as well,” Holder said. “I knew one day I would have a game where I couldn’t miss but that was a good feeling.”
Arizona State (4-0) scored 90 or more points in a game for the fourth time this season, and 50-plus by halftime for the third time. The Sun Devils shot 69 percent as a team in the first half with Holder making 7 of 8, including 4 of 5 on 3-pointers.
“It was one of the better performances that I’ve seen from a player I’ve coached,” Hurley said. “He looks very relaxed when he’s shooting the deep ones. It’s something he’s worked on.”
Guard Shannon Evans added 22 points and seven assists, knocking down all four of his first-half 3s. ASU made 10 of 13 in the first half and 14 of 23 for the game.
Arizona State’s 90 points in four straight games happened for the first time since Feb. 28-March 15, 1975.
“Coach gives us a lot of freedom, a lot of trust,” Holder said. “It’s great to know that you’ve got somebody who won’t take you out if you make a mistake or miss a shot. He’s with you to the end.”
Romello White added 14 points and 11 rebounds, his second double-double of the season.
Tommy Rutherford, Max Hazzard and Evan Leonard led UC-Irvine with 15 points each. The Anteaters (2-3) committed 10 first-half turnovers and 19 for the game.
The Sun Devils used a 12-0 run to take a 22-6 lead, then went ahead 37-20 on Remy Martin’s 3-pointer with 7:28 to play in the half.
UC-Irvine cut the lead to 43-32 on a 3 from Leonard at the 4:01 mark, but the Sun Devils extended their lead before the half.
Arizona State led by as many as 21 in the second half, but UC-Irvine battled back to make it a 76-65 game on a pair of Eyassu Worku free throws with 8:01 to play.
That was as close as the Anteaters were able to get. Kodi Justice hit a 3 with 3:59 to play to give the Sun Devils a 90-73 lead, and Justice finished with 18 points.
“We didn’t do a very good job individually or as a team on those three guys (Holder, Evans, Justice),” UCI coach Russell Turner said. “Which is disappointing because that was the focus of our game plan. You have to give those guys credit, they played at a high level.”
UC-IRVINE: The Anteaters are 2-3 but have five consecutive 20-win seasons. They have thrived in conference play with a 60-22 record in the Big West over those five seasons, and are expected to contend for the conference title this season.
ARIZONA STATE: Arizona State is 4-0 for the first time since 2013-14. That season’s team started out 6-0 and went on to the NCAA tournament. But the first big test for ASU is on Thanksgiving in Las Vegas, when the Sun Devils face Kansas State, which will likely be 4-0 as well after its game on Monday. The Wildcats have blown out their first three opponents.
Hurley said improvements in rebounding and free throw shooting need to be made against Kansas State, and ASU will have rotation depth with forward Mickey Mitchell, a transfer from Ohio State, available this week.
The overhead and end zone scoreboards went dark with 11:19 left in the game but came back on at the 7:48 mark.
During the outage the only visible game clocks were above each basket. A manual score counter on the scorers’ table was also used, and the public address announcer informed the crowd of the score.
Anteaters forward John Edgar Jr. was issued a technical foul for what appeared to be some chirping after he made a 3-pointer and was coming back up the court on defense.
Holder capped off his big first half with a deep 3 two seconds before the halftime buzzer, then squatted down and struck a pose. It gave Arizona State its largest lead of the game up to that point.
UC-Irvine: Versus Rider on Thanksgiving Night in Las Vegas.
Arizona State: Versus Kansas State on Thanksgiving Day in Las Vegas.