When Remy Martin is on the floor there is always a chance for the Arizona State Sun Devils to win. This couldn’t have been showcased more in front of a packed Desert Financial Arena on Saturday. Martin was the catalyst behind a stunning 22-point rally against arch-rival, the Arizona Wildcats (12-7, 3-3). ASU (13-6, 3-3 Pac-12) capped the comeback in style with a one-point victory.
“He’s a heck of a player,” Hurley said. “You count on that guy in the second half to make big plays and then help you win games.”
To truly understand Martin’s impact on the game, it’s essential to dive into a specific stretch of play. This stretch isn’t particularly long, but without it, ASU would likely have gotten blown out just like they did three weeks ago (75-47), the last time the teams met.
It starts with a beautiful sequence of passing at the end of the first half that culminated in a Martin lay-up that cut Arizona’s lead to 13 points.
Coming out of the break Martin picked up right where he left off and scored seven more straight points in two minutes and 23 seconds.
This dominant stretch of play solidified the momentum ASU built in the last three minutes of the first half with a 6-0 run and let the entire arena know that ASU was in it for the long haul.
It set the tone for the remainder of the game. The fans stayed on their feet and the entire arena seemed to live and die with every ASU possession.
Martin and company fed off this and secured one of the most memorable victories over Arizona in history.
“I’ve always been an advocate of letting them (fans) know how much we care for them,” Martin said. “It’s hard to play in a gym and nobody’s there and it’s empty. You’ve got to build your own energy. When they give us energy, we feed off that.”
ASU never trailed by seven or more points again and eventually worked themselves into a position where they could win. Despite having the hot hand, Martin wasn’t selfish and allowed his teammates to thrive.
“We went out there and executed, got some stops and soon as we got some stops, we started to run,” Martin said. “These guys (Rob Edwards and Alonzo Verge Jr.) made shots and big-time shots, and that’s why I got the greatest teammates.”
Martin would go on to score another six points during the second half while also providing three rebounds and two assists. Martin didn’t force shots and bounced back from an average first-half shooting percentage to hit 75 percent of his second-half shots.
His 13 second-half points were a game-high and the exact number that ASU trailed by going into the break. His final line read 24 points, three rebounds and four assists.
It’s unfair to only focus on Martin’s offensive prowess. He also had high energy on defense, forced a team-high two steals and helped shut down Arizona freshman phenomenon Nico Mannion. In the first half, Manion had 12 points and was 4-5 from three. After Martin’s teammates “got on him” to do better, Manion was held to four points on 1-4 shooting. Foul trouble contributed to this, but Martins’s impact in containing him cannot be understated.
Dominating against Arizona isn’t new for Martin. The stats speak for themselves.
The junior point guard has always shown out against the Wildcats, even as a true-freshman sixth man. In six contests with Arizona Martin has averaged 20.5 points 4.8 rebounds and 2.16 assists. The Sun Devils are 3-3 in those games.
If Martin’s freshman year stats are eliminated, his line is even more impressive. In those four games, Martin averages 25.5 points, 5.25 rebounds and 5 assists. Most importantly ASU is 3-1 in those games.
It’s in that last stat, where his impact can truly be felt. Since he has assumed a leadership role as a sophomore on the team, he has blossomed into one of the premier players in the Pac-12, and according to Bobby Hurley, “the country.” Since that point, ASU has seen success, and with Martin, on the floor, there’s always a chance, no matter the circumstance.
“Last game they got us but, that shows the character and the team that we have,” Martin said. “We can come back from those types of losses and do this and we’re expected to do this.”
Former star ASU running back Eno Benjamin laid claim to the title “Tucson’s Most Hated” after a series of dominant outings in the territorial cup. It’s safe to say that his peer on the hardwood deserves to share that title as well.
It’s not like Arizona is the only victim either. Saturday’s game marked the seventh consecutive contest in which Martin has eclipsed 20 points.
As sweet and redemptive as Saturdays victory may have been, Martin expects it.
“I think our expectations are so high...yeah, we’re gonna have fun today and we’re gonna celebrate but I think that we could still go on,” Martin said. “It’s the middle of the season. We’re not satisfied. This is something that in my mind, we’re supposed to win.”
Martin has eyes for the future as all great players do..
ASU fans have known Martin is a star for years, Saturday was just a friendly reminder just how impactful he can be, especially when it matters most.