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ASU Basketball: Sun Devils rely on defense and depth in 77-65 win over Louisiana

Home victory again

NCAA Basketball: St. John at Arizona State David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Arizona State (6-2) continued their impressive start to the season Saturday, taking down the University of Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns (5-4) 77-65 in only their third home contest so far this year. The Sun Devils were dominant from the opening tip, leading from the game’s first bucket at the 19:00 minute mark till the final buzzer while flaunting what is likely the team’s strongest collection of talent in the Bobby Hurley era. As Hurley and his staff work to concoct the team’s ideal rotation, the coach acknowledges the conundrum that often accompanies deeper rosters.

“If you have a lot of guys, that’s great; But if you have a lot of guys playing well, that’s really what’s good,” Hurley explained. “To figure out how to find enough guys that are contributing and playing at a high level, then the depth is wonderful. But if you have too many guys that aren’t playing well then what is it? You’re just playing a lot of guys that aren’t playing well.”

Forward Romello White was especially assertive in the win, as the redshirt junior collected his second straight double-double with a game-high 19 points and 14 rebounds. He consistently physically overmatched the undersized Ragin’ Cajun squad, pulling down a game best six offensive rebounds including a vicious putback slam early in the second half.

“Good things happened when he had the ball,” Hurley said of White’s play Saturday. “Percentages, some of his really good passes out of the post, he went to the offensive glass, he battled in the paint to rebound. He was one of the primary reasons why we were in the position we were late in the game.”

Guard Rob Edwards also submitted likely his strongest performance of the young season, pouring in 17 points and grabbing five rebounds. The Sun Devils guard depth has emerged as an early strength of the team, as continues to rely on the talented group to push the pace and collect easy points in transition.

Yet postgame, Hurley appeared frustrated with the team’s overall performance. While the team possessed a double-digit lead for most of Saturday’s contest, the Sun Devils defensive effort unquestionably dipped in the second half as the Ragin’ Cajuns scored 39 points in the period. Despite holding Louisiana to a lower shooting percentage than in the previous half (42.3% to 43.5%), Hurley was quick to admonish the team for their lack of disciplined play.

“It was a really poor defensive effort in the second half,” Hurley said. “We just allowed them to go off the bounce and beat us, and put them on the free throw line way too much.”

Hurley was especially disappointed in the play of guard Remy Martin, who scored 15 points on 4-11 shooting while adding a team-high four assists. For Hurley though, his concerns don’t lie with Martin’s statistical output, but instead with how the junior carried himself as the team’s primary leader.

“He has such a high standard with me that it wasn’t a good effort by him,” Hurley described. “He didn’t lead our team the way I needed him to. He wasn’t connected to the game the way he should’ve been. It has nothing to do with how he shot from the field, or how many points he had, it was more of how he led our team. I think he’s got to improve and do better.”

Martin and co. will have their next shot at redemption Wednesday when they host the Prairie View A&M Panthers. While Hurley and his coaching staff work to instill sound values within their team, the head coach is the first to acknowledge that strong principles are often more enlightening than the game’s final score.

“We have to start getting it in gear, and start trying to strive to play well so that regardless of what the score is you feel good about yourself after the game,” Hurley said. “As much as we’ve been winning, I just haven’t really felt like ‘wow, this really looks great, this feels good.’ We have to get back to the drawing board and get in practice and play better.”