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ASU Basketball: Sun Devils survive in an ugly contest with Prairie View A&M

A win is still a win

Andrew Palla/House of Sparky

In a physical, sloppy and long contest the Arizona State Sun Devils (7-2) pulled out an 88-79 victory over the Prairie View A&M Panthers (3-6) at Desert Financial arena on Tuesday night.

The game lacked any sort of flow on either end, and the teams combined for an outrageous 54 fouls and 84 free throws. The Panthers came out with physicality in mind and kept the Sun Devils at the line for much of the night. ASU attempted the same amount of free throws (51) as they had field goal attempts. ASU made 37 of those free throws.

“It was a crazy game,” junior Romello White said. “I feel like it was just all over the place, but I mean we took the challenge and I feel like we came out with a good win.”

The Sun Devils started slow offensively and were unable to capitalize on the Panther’s inability to control the ball early in the game. ASU was only able to score eight points off the Panther’s first nine turnovers.

The three-point shot wasn’t falling, and ASU went into the break with a seven-point lead. In the second half, the Sun Devils started hot following back-to-back buckets from Rob Edwards, and never looked back after that. They continued to move the ball well and shot better from all over the floor.

Despite this, Prairie View never gave in and remained in striking distance for much of the game. Even when the Sun Devils pushed it to 18 points in the second half, the Panthers never went away.

“They don’t give in and they don’t give up,” head coach Bobby Hurley said. “They’re really well coached.”

In the future, the Sun Devils want to be focused on not letting teams continue to come back after having big leads.

“When we got a big lead, I feel like we got to put our foot on their throat and really break the game open,” White said.

Remy Martin led all scorers with 21 points and added three rebounds and three assists. He went 9-for-11 from the free-throw line and had an efficient night overall. He was 2-for-2 from three-point range, which was a welcome sight, considering the rest of the team shot a combined 3-for-15 from beyond the arc.

Hurley wasn’t upset about the offensive production overall, but ASU had several wide-open looks from deep that they couldn’t connect on. They may be able to get away with that against Prairie View A&M, but 29.4 percent three-point shooting isn’t sustainable for a team that likes to shoot the three as much as the Sun Devils do.

“We’re going to get into the point where we’ll start evaluating whether we should be taking those shots or who should be taking them,” Hurley said. “Because as you keep working through the season, we’re almost a third of the way through the year so things should start turning.”

A big boost for ASU was the play of junior-college transfer Alonzo Verge Jr. The junior came in as a highly-touted prospect but has been slumping offensively since arriving in Tempe. It hasn’t helped that he has been dealing with a sprained right wrist. Verge broke out of that slump in the second half on Tuesday recording 14 of his 20 total points. He also added four rebounds and two assists.

He displayed the same great ball handling and quickness that ASU fans have seen all season, but had an improved shooting touch and finished better around the rim. He also finally hit the first three-pointer of his ASU career.

“It’s a big weight off my shoulders, because I know I can shoot the ball,” Verge said. “I’m going to keep shooting the ball, and my teammates did a good job just believing in me.”

If he can build off of the performance and continue to produce offensively, it will take much of the scoring load off of Martin and Edwards. The trio has the potential to form a potent scoring offense, reminiscent of the “Guard U” era at ASU. On Tuesday, they combined for 55 of ASU’s 88 points.

Another positive for the Sun Devils was White. The junior continued to be a consistent force on both ends of the floor and dominated the glass. He finished with 14 points and a game-high 16 rebounds.

It was the third consecutive double-double for White. The big man also did his job at the charity stripe hitting 10-of-14 free throws.

Due to his recent production, he has begun to draw double teams as of late. This opens up opportunities at the perimeter, that ASU hasn’t been able to capitalize on thus far.

“We’ve got to bring it all together with when teams go double, or we hit the paint and they got to rotate, that we kick out and guys are stepping in and making shots,” Hurley said. “We were 5-for-17. That wasn’t good enough based on the quality of the shots that I thought we took from three.”

One of the best moments of the night was Senior forward, Mickey Mitchell making his long-awaited return to the floor. It was only for a short spell during the first half, but he was still greeted with a warm ovation from the crowd. Mitchell has struggled immensely with Injuries during his time at ASU and missed essentially all of last season. It will be interesting to see how he fits into the rotation as he gains back his fitness.

ASU now turns their attention to a Saturday evening clash with Georgia and potential lottery pick Anthony Edwards. The Sun Devils got the win in Athens last season and will look to do it again. Tip-off is slated for 6:00 pm at Desert Financial Arena.