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ASU Basketball: Changes spark Sun Devils to blowout win over Colorado

Bobby Hurley with a few surprises

Andrew Palla/House of Sparky

Most were shocked to see Arizona State’s (10-4, 1-1 Pac-12) leading scorers, guards Luguentz Dort and Remy Martin, sit the bench to start Saturday’s game against Colorado 9-5, 0-2). In the the end, it was the right call, Bobby Hurley’s team controlled the entire contest from start to finish, earning their first conference win with a 83-61 victory. ASU has now won six straight games in Tempe against the Buffaloes.

Rob Edwards and De’Quon Lake replaced the two guards in a larger sized ASU starting five. The changes led to Zylan Cheatham being the lead ball handler, it influenced more ball movement all together. The Sun Devils had 24 assists in the win, a new season-high. The offense had one of their better games of the season, the Sun Devils finished 57% from the floor, and that is the best ASU has shot all season.

“We needed to change some things to be better in key areas and decision making, understanding game management, time and possession,” Hurley said. “Those were key areas when Lu and Remy were in during the first half as we had a big lead vs Utah. We just need to have a level of accountability.”

Despite the impressive offensive display, it was the defense that stood out.After ASU’s worst performance on the defensive side of the floor in their loss against Utah, the Sun Devils were defending with a passion. Although, against the Buffs they did it with a twist. Hurley debuted a 2-3 zone that frustrated Colorado from the opening tip.

“If I was preparing for us, I would’ve have thought we’d play zone,” Hurley said. “We haven’t shown it rather than small doses, but I thought it made sense for the lineup that we were starting. We worked on it yesterday in practice, just with the length and mobility of our guys it’s something we’re going to take a closer look at going forward.”

Colorado didn’t score until the 15:25 mark with a pair of free throws from Daylen Kountz. The Buffs missed their first eight field goals and three-point attempts.

The defensive energy looked on another level for ASU, from top-to-bottom. Freshman forward Taeshon Cherry had multiple steals where he dove to the ground to get a Sun Devil fast break started. One of them initiated a ferocious dunk from Dort. Edwards also made of for one of Martin’s turnover, he stole the ball right back leading to a pass to Dort to Cheatham for the finish.

Romello White led ASU in scoring, continuing his hot streak. White finished with 19 points, he scored the first six of eight for the Sun Devils. Cheatham and Martin kept looking for the big man down low, the two combined to end with 13 assists.

White was asked about practice on Friday after Hurley hinted that it wasn’t the most enjoyable environment for players:

“He made us work, he made us — punishment for the game that we had. It wasn’t a good game, we didn’t really play together,” White said. “We didn’t really move the ball. Just told us that we need to stick together, when we play together it’s hard to beat us. We’re just a different team when we pay together. That’s really what he was talking about the whole practice.”

Lake and White both had season highs (White tied his) in points, the two knew before the game they’d be starting together:

“We actually told us in practice, I was like ‘wow, we finally doing this,’” White said. “I always wanted it to happen. We always talked about it happening and he finally did it.”

In their loss to Utah, the Sun Devils saw a 17-point first half lead before the Utes cut it down to four at halftime. ASU found themselves in a similar spot, Rob Edwards hit a three-pointer with 5:13 left to put his team up 31-16. It was at that moment when Hurley raised his arms for the Wells Fargo Arena crowd to rise to their feet. Colorado cut the lead down to 10 at one point before the half, but a 7-0 lead to close out the half sent the Devils into the locker room up 18.

The Sun Devils cruised in the second half, their lead never got below 16. Five different players got into double digits including Kimani Lawrence, who finished with 11. Lawrence over the course of the two-game losing streak went without a single made field goal.

ASU will head to the bay area for their road trip to Cal and Stanford on Wednesday and Saturday. A trip that they split last year. Hurley said there’s a chance that the starting lineup from Saturday may not be the same on Wednesday, saying that the eight-man rotation ASU has that anyone could start.