Sun Devils fight off Rattlers for 97-70 win

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) -- Arizona State clicked right off the bat, racing out on the break, dropping in 3-pointers while building what appeared to be an insurmountable lead.

Just when it seemed the Sun Devils were going to let it slip away, they raced away again.

Jahii Carson scored 20 points, Jonathan Gilling had 13 points and 15 rebounds, and Arizona State fended off a second-half rally by Florida A&M to pull away for a 97-70 win Sunday.

"I was really pleased with the effort and the surge that our guys had there midway through the second half to pull away," Arizona State coach Herb Sendek said after earning his 100th victory with the program.

After an eight-day break between games, Arizona State (2-0) showed no signs of rust early against the Rattlers, racing out to a 19-point lead.

That changed early in the second half, when the Sun Devils went into an offensive funk and Florida A&M started making some tough shots.

The small crowd growing restless, Arizona State hit the accelerator again.

The Sun Devils clamped down on the Rattlers defensively, Gilling hit a couple of 3-pointers and Carson got to the rim for some tough layups to turn a close game into a rout.

Jordan Bachynski had 14 points, eight rebounds and blocked six shots for Arizona State, which scored its third-most points under Sendek. Chris Colvin had 15 points while playing superb defense, Carrick Felix added 13 and Carson had seven assists.

"We dug in a little more, we got tougher," Bachynski said.

Florida A&M (0-3) got off to an awful start offensively and never fully recovered, unable to fight all the way back from the big hole.

Jamie Adams had his way with Arizona State's defense in the first half, but the Sun Devils shut him down in the second half by face-guarding and denying him the ball, putting it in someone else's hands.

Adams led the Rattlers with 24 points, but just seven were in the second half. Without Adams running the show, the Rattlers labored down the stretch, their five-point deficit quickly ballooning to double figures.

"When they took him out of the game, we just went dead cold because when he's not scoring, he's initiating everything," Florida A&M coach Clemon Johnson said. "Once he didn't have the ball in his hands, now everybody's having trouble trying to initiate. Things just started to fall apart at that point."

Carson, Arizona State's heralded point guard, got off to a solid start after a year of hype-building, scoring 15 points and dishing out four assists in his first game in nearly two years against Central Arkansas.

Bachynski was the headline-grabber, though, finishing with 17 points, 12 rebounds and a school-record nine blocked shots to finish just short of notching the first triple-double in Arizona State history.

Playing against a starting lineup with no one over 6-foot-7, the 7-2 center had his way inside, scoring two quick baskets and bulled his way for a jump-hook later.

His teammates weren't finding it too hard to score against the littler Rattlers, either.

With Sendek rotating players in almost like it was a hockey game, the Sun Devils ran all over Florida A&M, breaking out for dunks, alley-oops and 3-pointers. Arizona State had an 11-point lead in the first 5 minutes and was up 25-10 midway through the first half.

Even after forcing up several shots late, the Sun Devils hit 52 percent from the floor in the first half and had 12 assists on 17 made baskets to lead 45-32.

The problem for Arizona State was that it kept taking bad shots, allowing Florida A&M to make a run.

Missing those tough shots while Florida A&M was making similar ones at the other end, Arizona State had its lead trimmed down to five near the midpoint of the second half.

The Sun Devils finally shook the Rattlers for good a few minutes later, using a couple of steals to set up a layup by Colvin and a putback by Gilling during a 12-0 run that made it 77-64.

"Our guys played with a lot of energy on the defensive end of the floor and that really allowed us to get some separation," Sendek said.

Florida A&M struggled in its first season under Johnson, going 10-23 a year ago. The Rattlers and their freewheeling offense have gotten off to a slow start this season, opening with road losses to Houston and Stetson.

Florida A&M kept it close against Houston, but lost by 22 to Stetson after missing its first nine 3-pointers and finishing 2 for 14.

The Rattlers kept rattling shots early against Arizona State, missing 12 of their first 16 to fall behind by 15. Adams was the only Florida A&M player to get anything to go down, scoring 17 points on 5-of-7 shooting in the first half. The rest of the Rattlers were a combined 5 for 22.

Despite struggling early, Florida A&M was able to keep Arizona State from running away with it, chipping a 19-point lead down to 13 by halftime. The Rattlers kept chiseling away in the second half, pulling within 57-52 on Adams' 3-pointer with just over 12 minutes left.

Florida A&M managed to stay within reach for a little while by making some difficult shots, but those stopped falling when Arizona State brought its big men back in and the Sun Devils pulled away with its big run.

Reggie Lewis added 16 points for the Rattlers.

"It was like watching a greyhound race (early) because they were running up and down and our transition defense sucked," Johnson said. "Once they got that glare out of their eyes, where we're playing the big school, etc., they settled down. We knew we would make a run. We just ran out of steam."

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