Heat check: Sun Devils out-duel Wildcats in classic finish in Tempe
ASU's Remy Martin (1) dunks the ball during the game on Thursday, Jan. 31 at Wells Fargo Arena. Arizona was defeated by ASU in overtime 95-88.
TEMPE – Playing against your rival wasn’t enough motivation for Arizona State head coach Bobby Hurley. He wanted to send a bigger message.
Before shootaround at Wells Fargo Arena, Hurley gave each of his ASU players a copy of the point differential in each meeting between Arizona and the Sun Devils since Hurley took over. For each point they lost by, Hurley ran a sprint across the court. The message worked.
ASU defeated Arizona 95-88 in an overtime thriller that saw each team go back and forth in a battle between two heated rivals and two coaches, each needing a win for different reasons.
In overtime, ASU scored the first seven points, with a Remy Martin 3 pushing the lead to 90-83. Arizona was able to fight back and cut the lead to four, but a Justin Coleman runner was off the mark and ASU sealed the game.
“Our defense wasn’t good enough in a game like this,” head coach Sean Miller said postgame. “We just couldn’t guard the guy in front of us. That’s the hardest defensive to solve, because there is really no easy answer."
Martin finished with 31 points and eight assists for the Sun Devils, with Zylan Cheatham grabbing 22 rebounds to go with 11 points. All five ASU starters scored in double figures on the night, shooting a blistering 55.6 percent from the floor.
Arizona was paced by 19 from Coleman and Ryan Luther, with Brandon Randolph scoring 17 points and Dylan Smith finishing with 11. The ‘Cats were out-rebounded 38-35, but finished the game 14-28 from 3, with only committing nine turnovers.
Prior to overtime, the teams went back and fourth the final couple of minutes, with free throws deciding much of the action. Two Rob Edwards free throws gave ASU an 81-78 lead with 1:18 remaining, with a Randolph layup putting Arizona back within one. After a Cheatham layup put ASU up by three, Coleman hit a side-step 3 reminiscent of his go-ahead shot against UC Davis earlier in the season that sent the game into OT.
Midway through the second half it looked like Arizona might distance itself on the scoreboard. The ‘Cats took their first lead at 61-59 with 8:13 left, thanks to Luther's shooting. He hit back-to-back 3s to give Arizona a 64-59 lead with 7:47 left, with the ‘Cats holding the lead until a Martin layup with 3:57 remaining put ASU back in front.
It was a case of you win some, you lose some for the ‘Cats, even before tipoff. Big man Chase Jeter returned after missing the LA road trip with a back injury, but Brandon Williams missed his first game all season due to a knee sprain. The injury allowed Arizona to use a bigger lineup with Smith returning to the backcourt instead of having to play minutes as a big man. Miller said postgame Jeter was “about 40 or 50 percent” for the game.
“It was good to have him out there,” Miller said. “Even 50 percent or wherever he would’ve been, you can tell we are a much better team with him out there.”
The loss moves Arizona to 14-8 and 5-4 in the conference. UA's chances of an at-large bid seem to have dwindled, with seeding in the Pac-12 tournament being its biggest goal the rest of the way. The road doesn’t get any easier, as the ‘Cats now return home to face the first place Washington Huskies. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday on ESPN2.
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