TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) –– It wasn’t exactly the way it has been going for Arizona State, but the Sun Devils withstood a late rally to finish a respectable non-conference schedule.
Averaging 6.5 points a game coming in, Shaquielle McKissic scored 15 of his game-high 18 points in the second half as Arizona State held off UC Irvine 74-61 on Saturday.
The Sun Devils (11-2) took control of a tight game with an 11-0 run in the first half, taking a 23-15 lead after a 3-of-19 start from the field in the first 11 minutes. Irvine cut the lead to six in the final minutes but got no closer.
“I think it’s just working hard, just giving effort and playing how you are supposed to play,” McKissic said. “If you do that, there is not too much that can go wrong.”
There were other things wrong. Leading scorer Jahii Carson had a slow start and was held without an assist for the first time in his career after averaging a team-high 5.8 a game this season.
But McKissic hit 5-of-6 from the field in the second half and added four rebounds and three assists, without committing a turnover for Arizona State, which has won four straight.
Carson finished with 16 points while 7-foot-2 Jordan Bachynski had nine points, 10 rebounds and six blocked shots for the Sun Devils.
Irvine’s 7-foot-6 freshman Mamadou Ndiaye scored 12 points, all in the second half, had 12 rebounds and four blocked shots for the Anteaters (7-7).
“He’s one of a kind and truly a difference maker,” Arizona State coach Herb Sendek said. “He has some unique features, obviously, and it is really a challenge to play against.”
Irvine got within six twice in the final four minutes but turned the ball over twice in the final 1:43, leading to four Sun Devil points.
“It’s a difficult assignment to come into a quality team’s arena and try to get a win,” said Anteaters coach Russell Turner. “Arizona State played well. I thought that the things we did, as far as our game plan, affected them in some ways and gave us a chance.”
But Irvine could not overcome 28 percent shooting in the first half and 19 miscues that led to 17 Sun Devil points.
“The fact that we allowed them to force us into 19 turnovers probably the difference in the game,” Turner said. “I think that turnovers are troublesome for a lot of reasons. We got discouraged in the first half I thought with our turnovers and some of the blocks that we gave to Bachynski that were relatively easy plays for him.”
Jonathan Gilling scored eight of his 13 points in the first half, making 3-of-4 3-pointers, for Arizona State, who led 35-23 at the break.
Will Davis II hit four of his first five shots and finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds for Irvine. Luke Nelson added 12 points.
Ndiaye missed his first two shots, made two turnovers and grabbed six rebounds in 11 minutes of the first half playing against Bachynski. In the second half, Ndiaye made 6-of-7 from the field and had just one turnover but picked up his fourth foul with 7:23 left.
“In the first half when we went on a run the big difference was defensive intensity,” said Bachynski, who has 63 blocks in 13 games this season. “We did a really good job in the first half on that run of putting stops together.”
Alex Young scored six points as Irvine cut a 17-point lead to eight but picked up his fourth foul with 8:37 remaining to slow the charge. The Anteaters later ran off eight straight points to get within 60-54 after Chris McNealy’s 5-footer with 4:08 remaining.
Irvine is 1-3 against Pac-12 teams and has lost four of its last six games.
The Sun Devils finished the pre-conference schedule with losses to Creighton and Miami.
“But I think given the schedule we’ve played, we have a good non-conference resume that hopefully will serve us well when March comes,” Sendek said.