Bobby Hurley isn’t the easiest man to please, but Monday he entered the postgame press conference with a lot of approval of his team’s performance.
“I thought it was probably the best defensive performance that I’ve had here as a coach,” Hurley said. “I thought it was really strong, especially the first half. Between the overall activity of our defense, our rotating, our protecting the basket. I thought it was outstanding.”
Arizona State (3-0) held Long Beach State (1-2) to 28% from the field in their 90-58 win over the 49ers. Long Beach State did start to find looks in the second half, shooting 38%, but the first half defense from the Sun Devils halted the 49ers offense to only 16 points on 6-of-32 shooting. This was just one game removed from the Hurley era record low 52 points allowed in ASU’s win over McNeese State on Friday night.
The Sun Devils had 21 points off of turnovers on the night, including the first basket for ASU when redshirt senior forward Zylan Cheatham intercepted a pass and took it to the hoop for the easy slam. That jolted his team to their first quick start of the season, they got out to a 21-9 lead in the first 10 minutes of the game.
Cheatham had two of ASU’s seven steals, he was one of five Sun Devils to collect a swipe. Sophomore Remy Martin also had two steals, he talked about what he thought of the defensive’s play in the win.
“I loved it,” Martin said. “I loved it coming into this game. Defensive is part of my game, I just try to bring the energy and talk to my guys about how important defense is, which they know. Just for me to remind them to never to slip. I loved our performance today.”
Martin led the team with 15 points and five assists. Hurley called him around 60% after the season opener with his ankle injury that occurred in the preseason, Martin seems to be getting his agility and speed back. However, early in the first half Martin was fouled on a layup, he came up limping, heading to the bench in a hurry. Martin did return to make both of his free throws and the ankle didn’t look to bother him the rest of the night.
“I always feel better when we win. That’s just my whole goal, I really don’t care and when I say it, I actually really mean it,” he said. “I don’t care about points, I don’t care about any other attributes or anything. As long as we win and we win the right way. That’s my job, I can control what I can control, my ankle is something I can’t really control, but I can alway control my voice and my effort.”
Cheatham also had a pair of blocks, Martin had one, senior forward De’Quon Lake, freshman forward Taeshon Cherry, freshman guard Elias Valtonen and sophomore forward Romello White all recorded one as well.
White commented on tonight’s defensive play and the change between this year’s team and last.
“I felt like we did great tonight. Felt like we kept them off the line as much as we can, we stopped them in the paint,” White said. “I feel like we’re more athletic, more aggressive on the offensive end and the defensive end. I just feel like were more athletic, we out rebounded them by 30.”
As much of a defensive performance the Devils displayed, the rock was shared on offense. Six different players scored in double digits including Martin, White and Cheatham. Freshman guard Luguentz Dort was another with his 12 points, he struggled to shoot on Monday, as he went 4-of-13 from the field. Although, Dort did contribute in another ways with a team-high 12 rebounds of the 63 ASU got in the win.
The identity of this Hurley squad is vast distinct from last year’s tournament team, and it’s becoming clearer with each game how Hurley wants win games this season.
“I know we’re capable of scoring, and we scored 90 tonight — but I’ve been hoping we could get to the point that we could play defense like this,” Hurley said. “It’s always been part of what I think factors into winning completely is being able to play both ends of the floor the best level you can.”
The Sun Devils will hit the road for the first time this season when they travel for a 8 p.m. game on Friday at the San Francisco Dons.