PHOENIX (AP) — Jordan Ford scored in the opening minute on a layup in transition, then hit a 3 and another layup. Two more 3s, one leading to a four-point play, followed and Ford kept pouring in points, outscoring Arizona State himself in the first half.
So much for those slow starts plaguing Saint Mary's. The Gaels' dynamic senior guard took care of that.
Ford scored 22 of his 34 points in the first half and Saint Mary's overwhelmed Arizona State from the opening tip for a 96-56 blowout Wednesday night in the Hall of Fame Showcase.
“When I'm playing well and I'm really aggressive, I feel like the other guys follow,” said Ford, who went 7 for 11 from 3-point range. “It's my job to be aggressive and take it to them, the other guys will follow my lead. That's what we did”
The Gaels (11-2) stomped on Arizona State from the start with a barrage of 3-pointers and transition baskets, building a 32-point halftime lead. Ford had 22 points by halftime to outscore the Sun Devils (8-3), who finished the half with 19 points, himself and Saint Mary's shot 60% to keep the blowout rolling.
The Gaels entered the game first nationally from 3-point range at 46% and padded that by making 16 of 26 from the arc.
“We had a pretty good plan on how we were going to get shots, but the fact that Jordan hit some tough shots early kind of took a little pressure off us and let us play a little more freely,” Saint Mary's coach Randy Bennett said.
Arizona State's Alonzo Verge Jr. had a breakout performance, scoring 43 points on 18-of-29 shooting. The Sun Devils had two other players score: Taeshon Cherry with eight points, Romello White with five.
Arizona State shot 3 of 22 from the 3-point arc in one of its worst performances in five seasons under coach Bobby Hurley.
“He was one of the few guys that had a rhythm on offense,” Hurley said of Verge. “Once he got going, we knew we had to keep riding him, get him the ball every time down the court. That was frustrating that you have that (few) guys playing well that you have to resort to something like that.”
The Gaels were in Phoenix 10 days earlier and lost 78-68 to No. 13 Dayton, bouncing back with a 12-point win over California before returning to the desert.
Arizona State clunked its way through the first half against Prairie View A&M on Dec. 11 in its first home game in 17 days, but was much better on Saturday while shutting down Georgia and star freshman Anthony Edwards.
The short trip to downtown Phoenix seemed to spoil the Sun Devils' mojo.
They had no chance at stopping the streak-shooting Ford, who had 16 points in the opening six minutes, 22 in the first half. Fitts added 13 points and the Gaels were 9 for 14 from the 3-point arc to lead 51-19 at halftime.
“We've been getting off to slow starts, so it was good to get off to a good start and step on their throats,” Ford said.
Bad as that was for Arizona State, it was even worse offensively — except for Verge. He had 13 points on 6-of-12 shooting in the first half.
The rest of the Sun Devils: six points on 2-of-24 shooting.
“We couldn't establish Melo early, we shot too quick early in the game, we weren't moving the ball,” Hurley said. “You can't really afford to do that.”
Saint Mary's showed why it was ranked No. 20 in The Associated Press preseason poll and how good the Gaels can be when they're clicking, particularly when Ford gets hot.
Arizona State has plenty of work to do at both ends of the floor before Pac-12 play begins on Jan. 4.
Arizona State starting guards Remy Martin and Rob Edwards had a rough shooting night, combining to miss all 14 shots they took, including seven 3s. Martin came into the game as Arizona State's leading scorer with 20.3 points per game and Edwards was third at 11.5.
“"Remy was pressing a little early in the game to try to get himself going, so he dug a little bit of a hole for himself offensively,” Hurley said. "We didn't move the ball well enough and over-dribbled it. Rob had some decent looks. He's just not making anything.
HE SAID IT
“This will go down in the record books as a guy who scored 43 points, yet had a minus-38 point differential. It's absurd to see that,” Hurley on Verge's night.
Saint Mary's plays Nevada in San Francisco on Saturday.
Arizona State hosts Creighton Saturday.
More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top 25