The recipe for Arizona State to be successful this season appears relatively simple. Redshirt senior Zylan Cheatham will need to do a lot of the dirty work and fill up the stat sheet while propelling the team on offense and defense.
Throw in some of freshman Luguentz Dort’s athleticism and playmaking on both ends of the floor. The formula looks strong in the season’s early stages.
Arizona State Sun Devils (2-0) defeated the McNesse State Cowboys (0-2) 80-52 Friday night at Wells Fargo Arena in Tempe.
Cheatham secured his first double-double of the season, pouring in 16 points and securing 12 rebounds while also distributing six assists. Dort led both teams in scoring with 25 and also forcing three steals.
This is when Dort was able to get the home crowd out of their seats.
Sun Devil head coach Bobby Hurley was very complimentary of the effort from the pair.
“Zylan had a great all-around game and Lu (Dort) was special again with how dynamic he is,” Hurley said.
ASU only held a 10-point lead at halftime, but used a dominant second half when they outscored McNeese State 47-29 as the offense began to click.
Part of the route was directly tied to the Sun Devils’ defense which held the Cowboys to only 32 percent from the field and forced 17 turnovers.
“I was excited about the intensity on defense in the second half, using our athleticism to create turnovers,” Hurley said.
Sophomore forward Kimani Lawrence 16 points as well, including two three-point field goals.
Despite the comfortable lead, the team wasn’t satisfied with results. Hurley felt that the team had played flat the majority of the game and needed a kick in the backside.
“The energy in the locker room wasn’t good at halftime,” Hurley said. “They felt they had to pick things up and they independently just extended the defense more and in particular Lu and Z (Cheatham) just creating some problems for them.”
Cheatham said the message amongst the team was simple for the sequence.
“Just turn up,” Cheatham said.
That’s exactly what ASU did.
With 12:32 remaining, Chetham found Lawrence for a wide-open lane to the basket and an easy layup. Cheatham then picked James Harvey’s pocket for a steal and a breakaway slam dunk.
Wells Fargo Arena was set into a frenzy, and the McNesse State bus was getting ready to hit the road.
ASU was also without redshirt junior guard Rob Edwards, who was injured during the season opener.
“We don’t feel it’s a significant injury where he’s going to miss any significant time,” Hurley said. “We are calling it day-to-day, we’ll see how he feels tomorrow in practice.”
The team is going to take the necessary precautions and aren’t in a rush to get him back on the floor if he’s not healthy.
“This is a very long season and he’s a very big part of our season and we’re going to do what’s right for him and make sure he’s ready when he’s out there,” Hurley said.
Edwards’ absence was highlighted by Arizona State’s struggles with outside shooting.
ASU shot only 5-for-19 from behind the arc and made a discernible effort to get the ball inside to the big men.
The team formerly known as Guard U has a new style.
“That’s not our identity,” said Hurley of the struggles from three-point distance. “We aren’t just solely relying on that, if teams give us that then we’re confident doing that. But we want to try and work the paint, and then get the ball inside and then get to the free throw line and wear some teams down.”
The Sun Devils now turn their attention to the Long Beach State 49ers who arrive in Tempe Monday night for a Veteran’s Day evening tilt at 6 p.m.
Edward’s status for Monday’s game remain to be determined, but if he’s sidelined indefinitely the Sun Devils might be waiting longer than they hoped to piecing a complete game together.