Dayton, Ohio — ASU had not faired well against the zone throughout its entire Pac-12 slate. The Devils were throwing up contested shots as teams seemed to slow down an offense that ran through all 12 of their non-conference opponents.
And in their First Four matchup of the NCAA Tournament in Dayton, Ohio, ASU knew they would have its toughest test of the season with Syracuse, who some think has the best zone in the country.
It took the Sun Devils a little bit to figure out Syracuse’s daunting 2-3 zone. Instead of penetrating it and trying to get the ball inside, ASU was settling for deep 3s. It’s first four shots all came from beyond the arc, and the Devils only connected on one.
But then, just under four minutes into the game, ASU brought Remy Martin in off the bench and the freshman wasn’t phased at all by Syracuse’s scheme. The quick and shifty Martin started dropping dimes and setting up easy buckets in the paint for his teammates.
Despite finishing the first half scoreless, the freshman guard put up four assists and four rebounds in 12 minutes of action. Instead of just trying to swing the ball around the perimeter, Martin was driving, letting the defense collapse onto him so he could dish it out.
Despite heading to the locker room down 30-28, the came out from there like they were shot out of a cannon. In just a minute and a half, ASU had a 6 point lead. In its first three possessions of the second, ASU racked up eight points — five from Tra Holder and three from Shannon Evans.
Almost 11 minutes later, Kodi Justice connected on his second three in almost a minute to give ASU its biggest lead of the game with a seven point advantage.
Starting the second half, it took Syracuse six minutes to score seven points. Now, ASU just needed to hold on to that lead for seven more minutes.
The Orange erupted on an 8-0 to grab a one-point lead, and momentum, with 4:12 remaining, they would end the game on a 15-7 run to seal their 60-56 victory in the First Four — setting up a matchup with 6-seed TCU in Detroit on Friday.
The Devils threw up a handful of triples in the last two minute that would’ve tied the game up or given the the lead. Every one missed, including this heave in the game’s final seconds that would have put ASU up one:
Shannon Evans missed this shot that would’ve given ASU the lead and probably th win pic.twitter.com/w6C9oKSROP— Jordan Kaye (@jordankaye_23) March 15, 2018
The loss ended ASU’s season and ended Holder, Justice and Evans’ college careers. In their final game, the trio combined to score 40 of the Devils’ 56 points — including burying clutch shot after clutch shot.
But on Wednesday, it just wasn’t enough.