Head coach Bobby Hurley challenged the Sun Devil defense and crowd after a pathetic performance and showing during the 21-point loss to Washington State on Thursday. Arizona State’s (16-7, 7-4 Pac-12) defense started the night filled with energy and it never stopped, the Wells Fargo crowd became pumped with every extra hustle play on Saturday.
Both the players and the crowd accepted the challenge from Hurley, and ASU handled Washington (19-5, 10-1) all night in a 75-63 winning effort.
“I thought the crowd was unbelievable, so let’s get on good terms again now that we’re all happy and we’re all on the same page,” Hurley said. “That was unbelievable how they got behind the team and really was dynamic — pushing us through that game in some tough stretches.
“I thought the guys brought the right focus tonight and thinking about the right things again. We really defended to our ability level and what we’re capable of doing in all areas to hold them to 63. We’re going to win a lot of games if we do that.”
That 63 points scored is the second-lowest amount the Huskies have scored over the course of conference play.
Freshman guard Luguentz Dort set the tone early on in the game. Dort helped create two turnovers that led to the game’s first five points, that were all scored by himself. He finished with 15 points, five rebounds and six assists. Although, none of those stats show Dort’s major impact in the victory.
His ability to defend Washington’s leading scorer, sophomore guard Jaylen Nowell, was the biggest difference maker. Nowell came into the game shooting 52 percent on the season, he shot 38 percent on Saturday.
Coming out of halftime, would ASU be able to replicate the energy produced in the first half. Dort proved that they did, on the first possession, he poked the ball away from Nowell and dove to the ground to get it. The possession arrow was directed toward the Sun Devils, and 17 seconds into the second half, the Wells Fargo Arena crowd was already back to being lively.
Hurley talked about his freshman guard’s presence on the defensive end:
“I thought Lu’s defense was as good as I’ve seen a guy guard a player like Nowell, that’s not an easy matchup,” he said. “And he really did a great job moving his feet, he kind of locked him down through a lot of the game. I thought his individual defense was pretty special.”
The team combined for 12 steals in the victory and forced 17 Washington turnovers.
Another play that got the fans fired up occurred later in the second half. Arizona State’s lead reached to a game-high 17 points with 9:42 left in the game. Washington then proceeded to go on a 10-0 run for the next few minutes. The doubts started to set inside ASU fans again, as it looked like another lead was about to implode.
Sophomore guard Remy Martin had the ball stolen from him by senior guard David Crisp, Crisp had the high possibility of cutting the lead down to five with another easy layup. Redshirt senior forward Zylan Cheatham had other plans, as he chased down Crisp and blocked his layup attempt.
Cheatham, after nice ball movement, finished with a dunk on the other end to complete the four-point swing. The doubts had been dissolved and ASU once again had full control of the contest.
The physicality was also brought to the offensive side of the floor as well. ASU outscored Washington 42-20 in the paint. The leader in that was redshirt sophomore forward Romello White, who had a team-high 17 points. He also missed just one shot, helping his team shoot 62 percent.
“I just want to see that every night from him,” Hurley said. “He was going after the offensive rebounds, not only getting his touches, but he had several big time offensive rebounds early in the game. He set a really good tone in the paint for us.”
Redshirt junior guard Rob Edwards’ ability to make outside shots against the Huskies also opened the paint up more for the Sun Devils’ plethora of players that attack the hoop. Edwards had 12 points and got going after a pretty finish for a layup early on. Seeing the ball fall through the net gave Edwards his confidence back after going 2 for 15 from the field against Washington State in the previous game.
“He just fell into the same category of Zylan and Remy, Thursday was unacceptable and I’m not going to allow it to happen again,” Hurley said. “He’s a really good player, he had a really poor night on offense and it’s great to see him bounce back.”
Hurley most likely won’t have any more complaints of the crowd after the loudest point when Dort and Cheatham connected on an alley-oop late in the game. He’ll also have few criticisms of his team’s play if they repeat their energy from Saturday.
The Sun Devils will start their series of five of the last seven regular season games on the road, when they travel to Colorado to face the Buffaloes on Wednesday at 8:30 p.m.