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ASU Basketball: Sun Devils nearly squander defensive performance against Oregon State

ASU holds on...barely

NCAA Basketball: Oregon State at Arizona State Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Zylan Cheatham earlier in the week talked about the importance of protecting, “The Bank.” With an Oregon State team coming into Wells Fargo Arena as one of the last three undefeated teams in Pac-12 play and looking for their first win in Tempe since 2007, the Sun Devils needed to prove themselves.

Arizona State (12-5, 3-2 Pac-12) answered the call on Thursday night with a 70-67 win. Oregon State (11-5, 3-1) entered the night as the conference’s leader in field goal percentage. For much of the game, it looked as the Beavers were headed toward to their worst shooting performance of the year.

Oregon State only scored 22 points in the first half, leading scorer Tres Tinkle came into the night averaging 20 points per game, he only had six at the break. The sharpshooter brothers, Ethan Thompson and Steven Thompson Jr. had 10 and three points respectively at halftime. Arizona State locked down three of the better shooters for an entire half.

“I loved our effort, our intentions how we guarded for the first half. It was excellent,” Bobby Hurley said. “We didn’t play the best offense in the first half, but the defense was really good and kept us in the game.”

Each possession ASU knew Oregon State was going to use the clock, and sophomore guard Remy Martin was happy his team played defense like they had practiced days before:

“The fact that we played a whole 30 seconds,” Remy Martin said. “We knew that they were going to pass the around and drag us through the clock. For us to stay focus and play through it, and make them take a contested jump shot or a shot they don’t usually take is how we got going.”

However, the Sun Devils’ 12-point with a little over four minutes left in the game quickly evaporated. Despite the control ASU had for most of the game, the Beavers brought it down to the wire.

Hot hands from Tinkle and Ethan Thompson collected 12 of the Beavers’ last 15 points. Oregon State found themselves down 68-67, Cheatham’s inbounds pass almost fell into the Beavers’ arms. Nevertheless, the ball ended up in Luguentz Dort’s hands, he’d get it to Rob Edwards, who hit the two free throws to create the three-point lead.

Tinkle and each of the Thompson brothers thought about a shot from beyond the arch on the following possession. It was Ethan Thompson who launched the ball with time expiring, his shot didn’t hit anything and the Sun Devils survived.

“We let them get a little bit of confidence,” Hurley said. “Our offense was slightly dysfunctional for awhile and not productive enough, and we turned it over a few times. We were hurting ourselves and sometimes that affects your energy on that end of the floor.”

Remy Martin said that the handful of different situations that team has found themselves over the past few weeks help fend off the Beavers’ late rally:

“We’ve been through a lot these last couple of weeks,” he said. “Just learning from those losses and also those wins. We have a lot to learn from today, but we have to do a better job closing them out.”

Martin had 10 points in the win, he was one of five Sun Devils in double figures. The most important offensive players for ASU were Edwards and Taeshon Cherry. Edwards finished with a team-high 13 points, 10 of which were scored in the game’s final 10 minutes.

Cherry off the bench went four of five from the three point range. It’s the first time Cherry has scored 12 or more since the Sun Devils’ win over Texas Southern on December 1st.

“When I get going, I start getting my confidence up,” Cherry said. “Today, I had two (three’s) in the first half, and it just got my confidence going...It was a big thing, and Rob...he’s been in the gym 24/7. I learned a couple thing shooting with him. He don’t miss.”

Hurley wasn’t shocked in the freshman’s performance on Thursday:

“Tae had four, our numbers were good at 40 percent,” he said. “Tae had great practices coming into this game. He was very locked in, he did some other good things well. He came in the game right away and got a few rebounds. A game like this will be a boost to his confidence moving forward.”

The most important stretch for the Sun Devils was after the 14:44 mark in the first half. Ethan Thompson made his first three-point shot to put Oregon State up 10-4. It wasn’t until over eight minutes later when Tinkle made a layup, that the Beavers had another field goal. In the 8:19 field goal drought, ASU went on a 15-3 run and an even more impressive 27-10 run to end the half.

The person to start that run was Cherry.

The ending wasn’t pretty, but with Oregon beating Arizona on Thursday, the Pac-12 has become even more open, if that’s even possible. The Sun Devils will welcome Oregon on Saturday, as each game becomes more crucial, it’s even more important to win the ones at home.