Arizona State: Cats can't lose track of Gilling, Gordon
Sun Devils duo does majority of its damage from three-point range

Patrick Finley Arizona Daily Star
Saturday, March 9, 2013 12:00 am

ASU's Jonathan Gilling faked out Solomon Hill on this play in January, but had just six points as the Sun Devils lost 71-54 to the Wildcats in Tempe. - MIKE CHRISTY / ARIZONA DAILY STAR

TEMPE - Jonathan Gilling won't call last year's three-point explosion against the Arizona Wildcats the best game of his career, but he knows it's close.

Arizona State's Danish forward scored 21 points, making 7 of 8 field goal attempts, including 5 of 6 from beyond the three-point arc.

He banked in his first three.

His last - with 57 seconds left, running to his left off a screen following two ASU timeouts - sealed the Sun Devils victory, and the Wildcats' NIT fate.

"That's the one coach (Herb Sendek) always talks about," Gilling said this week.

This season, in another regular-season finale, the sophomore will be one of two shooters trying to spoil the UA's Senior Day today.

The 6-foot-7-inch Gilling averages 9.6 points per game, making 2.3 three-pointers per contest and fewer than one two-pointer per game.

ASU junior guard Evan Gordon scores 10.2 points per contest. He averages 1.9 threes and 1.6 twos.

"It seems like, when ASU's had their best moments this season, one of those two are on," UA coach Sean Miller said.

Gordon is slumping, having failed to score in both Los Angeles games last week, though he reached double figures in six of seven Pac-12 games earlier this season.

He scored 28 against USC and 23 against Cal, both wins.

"I really believe in him," Sendek said. "He's always one shot, one play, away from breaking out."

Both Gordon and Gilling shoot 35 percent from three-point range.

Gilling has been more steady, if unspectacular.

Since scoring a career-high 22 against the Huskies on Feb. 2, he's averaged 9.3 points, just below his season mark.

"I think as a whole, probably both guys can shoot the ball better than they probably have," Sendek said.

"But both those guys have had terrific shooting nights.

"And they're such good shooters you always think their next shot is going in."

In Arizona's 17-point win at Wells Fargo Arena on Jan. 19, UA sophomore guard Nick Johnson rarely left Gilling, staying with the shooter even as others drove nearby.

"I think they're probably going to do that again," Gilling said. "Hopefully, I'll get open shots and knock 'em down."

That sounds plausible, given the Wildcats' recent history.

In seven of its past eight games, the UA has allowed opponents to shoot three-pointers at a better clip than ASU's 33.4 percent season average.

Five teams have shot better than 41 percent from three in that stretch.

"It's not as easy to script as, 'Hey, let's make sure that doesn't happen against us,' when we take that player out," Miller said. "For us, it's the same story.

"Our defense has to improve, or regain its form."

Jahii Carson, the Sun Devils' star point guard, will control the offense, either driving the lane or, if the Wildcats collapse in on him, kicking to Gilling and Gordon.

"We definitely want to play our game, drive the basketball," he said. "If the three ball comes, it comes. … We don't want to settle for jump shots."

Still, making jumpers "opens up the floor a lot more," Gilling said, either for Carson or slashing wing Carrick Felix.

In January against the UA, Felix played one of his worst games of the season, scoring five points on 1-of-8 shooting and turning the ball over seven times.

"I remember how I played," Felix said with a smile, "but it feels like a blur to me.

"I'm definitely ready to come back and have a good game, this one. … It's easier to laugh about if I bounce back and play better (today)."