Arizona State (3-1) shook off a slow start Saturday to take down the St. John’s Red Storm (4-2) 80-67 in the first round of the Air Force Reserve Tip-Off Tournament.
Junior guard Remy Martin led all scorers with 19 points on 6-15 shooting while forward Romello White continued his efficient start to the season, going 6-6 from the field for 15 points while adding a game-high nine rebounds.
The Sun Devils will now advance to the tournament’s championship round, held at the Mohegan Sun Center in Uncasville, CT, and face the defending national champion Virginia Cavaliers on Sunday.
St. John’s opened Saturday’s contest on a tear, starting the game on a 15-2 run in just a little over five minutes of action. ASU though, was quick to respond, spurring a 18-5 run over the next seven minutes to tie the score at 20 at the 7:22 mark of the first half.
From there, a back and forth battle ensued with neither team able to secure a comfortable lead until the half’s final four minutes when the Red Storm used a 13-4 run to take a nine point lead into halftime.
Much of the Sun Devils’ early struggles stemmed from uncharacteristically poor halves from both Martin and fellow starting guard Rob Edwards.
The duo, which had led the team in scoring through their first through games, was held to a combined six points on 2-12 shooting including 0-5 from three.
ASU was primarily kept afloat by the strong play of White, who led all Sun Devils with eight first half points, and guard Jaelen House, who poured in seven points while displaying his now infamous frenetic energy.
The freshman was often the catalyst for an ASU fast break, pushing the tempo and either finishing at the rim or finding an open teammate.
The second half was a vastly different story for the Sun Devils, as both Martin and Edwards came alive. Martin’s turnaround was especially impressive, as the junior scored 17 of his final 19 points in the half, including 11 straight to bring the score from a nine point ASU deficit to a two point ASU lead.
Martin’s singular dominance helped grant the Sun Devils a lead they would never surrender, outscoring the Red Storm 49-27 in the second half to collect their third straight victory.
Up next for ASU is a battle tomorrow with the seventh-ranked Cavaliers in the tournament’s championship game. Martin and company look to avoid another slow start as they work to improve to 4-1 on the season. Tip-off is set for 11 a.m. local time.