Arizona State (4-8, 1-5 Pac-12) dropped the season series against the Arizona Wildcats (12-3, 6-3) Monday night after an 80-67 loss at the McKale Center in Tucson.
The Sun Devils started the game shooting 3-22 from the floor, as soon as the ESPN2 broadcast put that graphic up, Holland Woods had a three-pointer blocked. The next offensive trip down, Josh Christopher tossed up an airball.
At that point, it appeared the wheels had completely fallen off for this ASU team. There was no flow on offense, minimal effort in transition, and little resistance on the defensive end, as the Wildcats were tossing in layups and connecting on baseline lobs.
Wildcats twitter was ready to laugh right back at ASU for all the jokes Sun Devil fans tossed around after the Sun Devil football team thumped the Wildcats 70-7 in December.
it's halftime.— Sun Devil MBB (@SunDevilHoops) January 26, 2021
But whatever message Sun Devil head coach Bobby Hurley delivered to his team at the half, which almost assuredly involved some choice words and yelling considering the pure competitive spirit that drives him, it worked.
The second half, ASU became the team they were expected to be at the start of the season. Christopher, who was 0-6 in the first half, threw down a monster dunk that awoke the Devils from their daze; Jaelen House, who has seen limited action this season and had to miss games due to COVID-19 protocols, provided a spark off the bench.
But the true star for the Sun Devils in the second half was Remy Martin, the Remy Martin who has the captivating ability to catch fire from behind the arc that has been missing for much of this season.
On a day where hail and sleet rained down on the Phoenix area, the senior guard and undeniable leader of the team connected on a flurry of 3-pointers, four to be exact, and shot 58 percent from the field on his way to 21 second-half points.
As a team, the Sun Devils increased the dial on their defensive intensity. Hurley made an adjustment to a full-court press, and the Devils forced 10 turnovers.
As effective as the adjustments were on Monday night, the Devils dug themselves far too deep of a hole in the first half to the Wildcats to really contend down the stretch.
ASU would get no closer than nine points to Arizona due to the Wildcats still shooting 50 percent in the closing half.
James Akinjo and Terrell Brown Jr. led the way for Arizona, scoring 16 points and 18 points, respectively.
Three nights after his buzzer-beating heroics, Azuolas Tubelis scored 16 points of his own. This Wildcat team has now won six of their last eight games and are still in contention for the PAC-12 crown.
Despite another loss for ASU, the effort in the second half and the defensive adjustments made by Hurley could provide a blueprint for future success.
Unfortunately for the Devils though, the half-court offense is virtually nonexistent. Fortunately, ASU thrives in fast break, chaotic situations.
If Hurley and the Sun Devils commit to 40 minutes of full-court, defensive intensity, then this team can start to produce the highlight reel action all this talent should be creating.
The Devils have a little break before they return home to host Cal on Thursday night. Tip-off is at 9 p.m. AZ time and the game will be aired on FS1.