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Arizona State Basketball: A Look Ahead After Hard-Fought Victory in Tucson
By Peter Bouloukos, DieHardDevil.com
March 11, 2019 8:24 PM

According to the Computer Power Ratings, the Arizona Wildcats had a sixty-percent chance of beating Arizona State in Tucson Saturday afternoon, and the Sun Devils were getting as many as two points as an underdog at tip-off.  Arizona State Basketball entered the showdown having won four of its last five games and averaging 6 more points per game than the Wildcats. Both teams had a ton to play for, and the game was an epic battle.

 

Sophomore Remy Martin – Photo, Sun Devil Athletics

 

On January 31st at The Bank in Tempe, Arizona State Sophomore Guard Remy “Share the Sugar” Martin dropped 31 points and 8 assists on the Wildcats.  The mailman once again delivered Saturday. Martin, “The Wildcat Killer,” finished with a game-high 27 points and 7 assists while also grabbing 8 boards.

 

 

The Sun Devils (21-9; 12-6 Pac-12) played without Taeshon Cherry due to concussion protocol, and Rob Edwards struggled from the floor, finishing 0-5 with 3 turnovers in just 18 minutes.  Luguentz Dort found himself in early foul trouble, and Coach Bobby Hurley inserted the 10th man on the bench, Elias Valtonen. Valtonen swallowed up 9 meaningful minutes with four boards, one assist, a blocked shot, and a forced charge.

Luguentz Dort started the game like a man possessed with an early monster dunk and two consecutive three-pointers putting ASU ahead 14-12 at the 14:11 mark.  Chase Jeter, Ryan Luther, and Brandon Randolph came strong, putting Arizona ahead 25-19 with eight minutes left in the first half.

Then Romello White hit two free throws followed by a three-pointer each for Zylan Cheatham and Kimani Lawrence pushing the Sun Devils back into the lead 27-25.   After 20 minutes, the game was locked at 33 apiece.

 

 

Senior Zylan Cheatham – Photo, Sun Devil Athletics

 

The second half was a war of attrition, both teams were turning the ball over and found themselves in foul trouble.  Arizona State capitalized off of 16 Arizona turnovers netting 23 points. The Sun Devils managed to cough up the ball 17 times themselves, but the Wildcats were only able to collect 14 points in the chaos.  

Arizona (17-14; 8-10 Pac-12) kept up with Arizona State for most of the second half despite being in foul trouble.  Guards Justin Coleman and Brandon Williams fouled out around the five-minute mark opening the door for Remy Martin to slice up the Wildcat reserves.   Martin was able to get to the rim for layups or a foul, where he shot 7-9 from the free throw line.

The Sun Devils were 20-35 from inside the arc, 5-16 outside.  Despite 17 turnovers, Arizona State controlled the game. You could just see a certain swagger and knew they were going to prevail.  

ASU 72 – ARIZONA 64. Final

ASU swept the season series with the Wildcats for the first time since 2008-2009, James Harden’s sophomore season. The victory ended an eight-game losing streak at the McKale Center in Tucson.    

ASU shot 49.1 percent (25-for-51) led by Martin (27) and Dort (15).  But you can’t forget two unsung heroes in Zylan Cheatham and Kimani Lawrence. Cheatham added 13 points, six rebounds, and two blocks, while Lawrence was efficient, adding 10 points, 2 steals, and 2 boards in 33 minutes off the bench.  In every recent win, Arizona State has worked the ball inside rather than defaulting to the three-point shot. Getting production off the bench against the Wildcats helped too.

 

 

What’s Next?

Arizona State Basketball has an SRS rating of 56 out of 353 NCAA Men’s Basketball Teams.  The Simple Rating System considers average point differential and strength of Schedule. Arizona State Basketball has an SOS rating (Strength of Schedule) of 66 out of 353 teams and a NET rank of 67.

The NET is the parameter used by the NCAA Selection Committee, and at 21-9 Arizona State Basketball may still have something to prove. Vanderbilt who beat the Sun Devils 81-65 earlier this season was completely defeated in SEC play running up 0 wins on 18 losses.  On that same road-trip, ASU narrowly escaped Georgia with a 76-74 win, and Georgia was 2-16 in SEC play. Guess who those Bulldogs beat twice? Vanderbilt.

 

 

Kansas is 23-8, finishing 3rd in a tough Big 12 Conference.  The Jayhawks are 135th offensively and 83rd defensively out of 353 NCAA schools in the country.   Princeton has the 305th rated offense in the NCAA, finishing 3rd in the Ivy League.  Princeton was able to beat Arizona State at The Bank in Tempe 67-66.

Arizona State Basketball has the 130th ranked offense, and 111th ranked defense in the country.  The Sun Devils are ranked 59th for points-per-game (77.7 pts), but 223rd in points allowed (72.9 pts).  

The Sun Devils head into this week’s Pac-12 Tournament Thursday at T-Mobile Arena as a 2-seed furthering its cause for an at-large bid if it does not manage to win in Vegas.  ASU will face the winner of the first-round game between UCLA and Stanford, both teams Arizona State should beat.

Down the stretch, Bobby Hurley’s team went 2-1 against Oregon, Oregon State, and Arizona, and all were ranked in the top 80 NET as of last week.  Today Oregon is 54, Oregon State is 84, and Arizona is now 95 NET.

 

Arizona State Basketball Coach Bobby Hurley fields questions on Monday in Tempe

 

“To beat a team with their history and tradition and be able to sweep them, I don’t get wrapped up in a lot of that stuff, but it tells us we are doing something right.” – Bobby Hurley after the Arizona game.

Even though Arizona slid over the past few weeks, a victory on the road in one of College basketball’s best environments is huge for Arizona State Basketball and Coach Bobby Hurley, now in his fourth year at the helm.  “You look at some of the bigger wins we have had, and the common theme has been defense late in the game,” Hurley said. If you think of all of the guards in the country, not one of them wants to be chased around for forty minutes by Luguentz Dort or Remy Martin.

At 21-9 Arizona State Basketball can afford one more loss and should still make the NCAA Tournament.  But if we want to guarantee the field of sixty-four rather than having to play in, we defeat UCLA/Stanford on Thursday.  Both teams present a quality win opportunity.  After all, 22-10 definitely feels better than 21-10.

In my humble opinion, the Pac-12 Tournament might help produce 3 teams that Dance in March. Look for Colorado (NET 70) and Oregon (NET 54) both to show up strong.  Washington is vulnerable in this tournament and is a lock for March Madness with a NET of 38.

For reference, two of ASU’s losses came to Vanderbilt who has a 152 NET and Princeton now standing at 188 NET.  Remember, THE ONLY STATISTIC THAT MATTERS in March is the end result, “WINNING.” Arizona State Sun Devil Men’s Basketball needs to take it one game at a time playing to their greatest potential for 40 total minutes against Thursday night’s opponent, either UCLA or Stanford. 

 

#DieHardShoutout to Sun Devil Luguentz Dort for being named the PAC-12 Freshman Player of the Year. Honors were given to Senior Zylan Cheatham and Sophomore Remy Martin as well:

 

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