- Associated Press - Saturday, December 3, 2016

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) - Few expected Arizona State to give top-ranked Kentucky a battle in the Nov. 28 game, but the 46-point loss was humbling.

The Sun Devils fired back after that defeat. From long range. Arizona State tied a school record by knocking down 18 3-pointers in a 97-73 win over UNLV Saturday night.

Guard Shannon Evans II led the way with a season-high 28 points as the Sun Devils beat UNLV for the fourth straight season.

“You wonder about the psyche of the team, the confidence of the team after something like that,” coach Bobby Hurley said. “But we practiced real hard and guys got a lot of pride. I thought we might struggle some early in the game on offense. I felt that the guys would perform and outwork our opponent defensively.”

Evans, Torian Graham and Tra Holder combined to make 15 3s, with Graham hitting six as part of his 22 points. Holder added 20 points and Arizona State shot 49 percent from the field.

ASU led by as many as 30 points.

“Probably the most important win of the season,” Graham said. “We were all in a dark place last week so it was good to just get out of that dark place.”

ASU used an 11-0 run to take a 20-6 lead in the first half, with Graham and Holder hitting a pair of treys during the run. The Rebels cut the lead to five, 34-29, on free throw by Jalen Poyser with 4:15 left, but the Sun Devils closed out the half on a 17-3 run and stayed in control the rest of the way.

“A night like this, when everybody’s hitting, is always great,” Evans said. “When we play great defense, everybody gets easier shots and everybody scores, so it’s more fun for everybody.”

Thirteen of Arizona State’s 17 first-half field goals were from long distance. Maurice O’Field took ASU’s 36th 3-point attempt with 17 seconds left, but the effort came up short of both the rim and the school record.

Down 19 points at halftime, UNLV couldn’t cut the lead into single digits. Poyser’s 20 points led UNLV, with forward Tyrell Green adding 18 points and nine rebounds.

The Rebels had won five of six coming into the game.

TIP-INS

UNLV: Uche Ofoegbu started after missing the Rebels’ last game due to illness … Christian Jones (foot) missed his fifth straight game … Cheickna Dembele (foot) played five minutes after missing the past three games.

ARIZONA STATE: Rapper YG, in town for a show on Sunday, took part in the students’ Curtain of Distraction free throw tradition … Kodi Justice was knocked to the floor on the final play of the first half but was able to walk off the court and returned in the second half.

STAT OF THE NIGHT: Arizona State’s 73 points allowed wasn’t a season low, but it showed defensive improvement after the Sun Devils had surrendered 110 and 115 points in their two most recent games.

TURNING POINT: Justice fed Obinna Oleka for a 3 with 1:54 left in the first half, then hit his only 3 of the game 38 seconds later to give ASU a 48-32 lead. UNLV had trailed by only five moments before and was still within striking distance until that sequence.

BIG PICTURE

UNLV: Three of the Rebels’ next five games are against teams in the Top 25: No. 5 Duke on Dec. 10, No. 23 Oregon in Portland on Dec. 17 and fourth-ranked Kansas on Dec. 22.

Arizona State: The Sun Devils go to New York for their next game, then fly back across the country to San Diego for a game against San Diego State on Dec. 10.

UP NEXT

UNLV takes on Duke at the new T-Mobile Arena Dec. 10.

Arizona State plays No. 15 Purdue in the Jimmy V Classic Tuesday at Madison Square Garden.


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