Most teams after a gut-wrenching loss have to reconfigure some things in order to rediscover their mojo. The Arizona State Sun Devils were embodying that formula most of their game Saturday against the Georgia Bulldogs.
Trailing by 14 points at the half, and then ASU was down by six with less than four minutes left. Hope was bleak and many were left shaking their heads.
Where is freshman sensation Luguentz Dort?
After all he had only scored nine points prior to the waining seconds and was completely shut down by Georgia’s athletic, long guards, Dort was ready to make an impact.
Trailing by a single point with 26 seconds left in the game, ASU drew a play for the freshman to attack the basket against one of the Bulldogs’ big men in hopes of drawing a foul or scoring a layup. Dort heaved an acrobatic layup off the window and gave the Sun Devils a 75-74 advantage and the lead for good.
However, it wasn’t the most important play he made.
Georgia took their second-to-last timeout to draw up a potential game-winning play, but had issues inbounding the ball. Junior guard Jordan Harris’s pass was intercepted by Dort, Georgia was forced to foul, thus sealing the ASU victory.
No. 20 Arizona State (8-1) bested the scrappy Georgia Bulldogs (5-4) 76-74, in a game they had no business winning. ASU was thoroughly outplayed by the Bulldogs, who were poised for the upset win.
It just wasn’t meant to be, and the Sun Devils can breathe a sigh of relief.
After struggling against Nevada in his return, sophomore guard Remy Martin showed glimpses of the player ASU fans adored last season.
Martin finished with 21 points, eight rebounds, five assists and three steals. He single-handedly kept ASU competitive in the first half, and helped will them to the victory as the deficit grew smaller.
The rest of the cast was fairly quiet. Sophomore forward Kimani Lawrence was held to only eight points, and senior forward Zylan Cheatham recorded a 10 point and 10 rebounds double-double.
For a team that has played more good games than bad, being able to win ugly is a feather in their cap. As well as their first true road victory of the year.
A turning point in the game was when Georgia’s sophomore forward Rayshaun Hammonds fouled out with 4:24 left in the game. Hammonds was beating ASU from three-point land shooting 3-for-4 from deep as he scored 19 points and gathered six rebounds.
His defense on Cheatham and ASU’s other bigs was another tough loss for Georgia, as the Sun Devils began feeling more comfortable attacking the basket.
The Bulldogs also received strong performances from junior guard Tyree Crump and sophomore forward Nicolas Claxton. Crump poured in 19 points of his own, he thrived from outside of the arc. Claxton finished with nine points, 13 rebounds and four blocks and showed a willingness to defend beyond the paint.
Part of scheduling a grueling schedule with a young roster is growing pains. The Sun Devils have navigated through nine games, and were one non-miserable half away from being undefeated.
As the calendar moves closer to 2019, the schedule shows the No. 1 Kanas Jayhawks, but first comes a meeting Monday with the Vanderbilt Commodores in Nashville.
If ASU learned anything from Saturday’s game it was that it’s hard to start slow on the road and still win. But, if Martin can continue playing hero there’s no game they will not be competitive.