TEMPE, Ariz. — Guard U has become unguardable when it gets going.
Led by its dynamic guards, No. 3 Arizona State dominated from the start in a 104-65 victory over Pacific on Friday, extending the best start in school history.
“TV doesn’t do justice how good their guards are,” Pacific coach Damon Stoudamire said. “They put so much pressure on you. Whether they make or miss shots, they’re putting a lot of pressure on you.”
The Sun Devils (12-0) have been plagued by slow starts in recent games, needing to turn on their guard-driven firepower to pull away from opponents.
Arizona State jumped on Pacific (5-8) early and didn’t let the Tigers up, building a 10-point lead in the opening minutes and expanding it from there with a flurry of fast-break baskets and 3-pointers.
Shannon Evans II scored 21 points, Tra Holder added 19 and freshman Remy Martin provided his usual energetic spark off the bench, finishing with 14 points and six assists.
Romello White was a nice complement to Arizona State’s guards, bulling his way inside for 16 points and eight rebounds. De’Quon Lake helped shut down the Tigers inside, blocking seven shots, including two in one second-half possession.
The Sun Devils shot 54 percent, made 12 of 26 from 3-point range and head into Pac-12 play next week on an unprecedented roll.
“They all kind of take turns driving to the hoop, throwing lobs, pushing the ball down the floor and getting to the rim, hitting 3s,” Arizona State coach Bobby Hurley said. “You don’t really know where it’s coming or when it’s coming.”
Pacific’s only chance to hang with the surging Sun Devils would be to make shots from the perimeter and at the rim. The Tigers struggled on both counts, going 3 for 17 from the 3-point arc and getting 10 of their shots blocked while shooting 36 percent from the field.
Miles Reynolds and Jack Williams had 13 points each to lead Pacific.
“You’ve got to make shots to open it up and we didn’t make shots,” Stoudamire said.
Arizona State is off to its best start in 106 years as a program, but was plagued by slow starts in its previous two games.
The Sun Devils’ sluggishness lasted for about 10 minutes against Vanderbilt and an entire half against Longwood. They turned both games into lopsided victories by switching to a gear few teams can match.
Arizona State had no slow-starting troubles against the Tigers, opening with a 12-2 run while holding them to 1-of-7 shooting in the first 6 1/2 minutes.
The Sun Devils relaxed for a stretch midway through the first half, but mostly had their way with Pacific, building a 47-31 halftime lead .
The Tigers started making a few shots as the half went along, but had trouble keeping track of Arizona State’s guards along the perimeter.
The Sun Devils made eight 3-pointers by halftime, with Evans making four while scoring 16 points and Holder adding 13 points.
Pacific made a short run to trim Arizona State’s lead to 13 early in the second half, but the Sun Devils scored six points in rapid succession to stretch the margin back out. A 19-2 run later in the second half really put the game out of reach for the Sun Devils.
“We have a burst to us and the guys feed off each other,” Hurley said. “There’s a lot of offense on the floor most of the time.”
Stoudamire has scheduled tough in his second season at Pacific and the Tigers have struggled against the bigger schools, adding Arizona State to a list of losses that includes Stanford, Nevada, Wyoming and UNLV.
Arizona State closed out its nonconference schedule in impressive fashion, overwhelming a small-conference program from the start.
Martin has given Arizona State an energetic boost off the bench in every game he’s played and Friday was no different.
The freshman point guard who plays with a confidence that belies his age confidently drove to the basket against the Tigers and dropped in a long 3-pointer without hesitation. Martin also ran Arizona State’s offense superbly and was a nuisance to Pacific’s guards on defense.
“Every team has a curveball and the difference is that they never had a guy who could change the game like that,” said Stoudamire, who played for ASU’s rival Arizona in college. “He changes the game for them, brings a lot of energy.”
Pacific hosts No. 12 Gonzaga next Thursday to open the West Coast Conference season.
Arizona State plays its biggest rival to open Pac-12 play, at No. 18 Arizona on Dec. 30.