The night ended just as it had began, with a celebration of senior Remy Martin.
A player that Sun Devil fans won’t soon forget connected on one of the most memorable shots of his career Saturday night in Tempe.
With all the commotion that defined the overtime period against Washington State (14-12), the situation couldn’t work out any better for Arizona State (10-11) with 10.9 seconds remaining. Tie game, last shot, best player on the court with the ball in his hands.
Martin crept over the halfcourt line, and continued his steady dribble as Cougars Ryan Rapp and TJ Bamba approached to cut him off. With four seconds left, Martin made his move.
REMY MARTIN.— Sun Devil MBB (@SunDevilHoops) February 28, 2021
GAME WINNER. pic.twitter.com/NB3aHaAFj6
The shot defined the incredible competitor Martin has been since he was the PAC-12 Sixth Man of the Year his freshman season. Before his dagger three, Martin had scuffled from three-point range, going 2-12 on the night, but great players never lose confidence.
On Saturday, Martin proved once again why his jersey deserves to hang in the rafters at Desert Financial Arena.
“For senior day for us, it was a fitting end,” ASU head coach Bobby Hurley said. “It’s what he’s been doing here for years.”
The Sun Devils might not have needed Martin’s heroics Saturday night if it wasn’t for an incredible defensive play from Cougar freshman Dishon Jackson. With seconds remaining in regulation, ASU senior guard Alonzo Verge Jr. drove to the bucket, and found what he was looking for.
The defense collapsed on Verge, allowing an easy drop off to senior Kimani Lawrence, who, coming off his best game of the season Thursday against Washington, was about to be the hero for the second straight game as he soared in for the game-winning slam.
That’s when Jackson wheeled around to deny Lawrence with a game-saving block. It was the most impressive play of the night from the promising forward.
“We got a really good look,” Hurley said. “Kimani went really hard to the basket. I saw the clock and saw how much time was on it, it was scary. But a great job by us to get back and force a miss and get a tie up in that situation.”
Jackson finished his night with 13 points and nine rebounds, along not missing any of his seven free-throw attempts. As a team, the Cougars shot 90 percent on free-throws, which is 20 percentage points higher than their season average entering the contest (70.2%).
While the shots at the charity stripe were pure all night for the Cougars, their overall shooting was spotty at best, especially during a second half scoring drought that ran all the way up to seven minutes.
In that stretch, the Sun Devils turned a 47-42 deficit into a 56-47 advantage because of the two-way play from Verge and sophomore guard Jaelen House, who scored all 10 of his points in the second half.
Jalen Graham, the sophomore forward who is beginning to realize some of his remarkable potential in the latter half of this season, brought his working clothes to the arena on Saturday night.
Graham finished with 11 points and 12 rebounds, with six of those coming on the offensive glass.
“I think Jalen just playing with fouls, having those four and being able to stay on the court that long against their size and their frontcourt was a really good sign of growth,” Hurley said. “The plays he made defensively with those big rebounds were also a very important part of us getting this victory.”
As Hurley mentioned, Graham was a monster on defense, looking less like Jalen Graham and more like Kentucky-era Anthony Davis, posting a steal, four blocks and disrupting several more would-be Cougar baskets.
On a senior night, it was two sophomores, House and Graham, providing a preview of the future of Sun Devil hoops.
Back in the first half, ASU started the game with a lightning fast 12-2 run, and the game appeared like it would play out much like Tuesday’s romp over Washington.
However, credit to Cougar head coach Kyle Smith, who adjusted his defense into a combination of 2-3 zone and 1-3-1 trap. It worked in stifling the Sun Devils for much of the rest of the first half, allowing the Cougars to get back into the game.
ASU’s dominant 18-6 run was cut down with 5:39 remaining, with the scoreboard showing an ASU lead of 60-51. Over those next five minutes, Washington State would chop the Sun Devil lead down with an up-tempo attack. With 40 seconds left, it was a tie ball game.
That’s when Martin, who had been just off all night, with easily four three-point attempts that had gone halfway down-and-out over the course of the game, stepped in to make his mark.
He crafted his way to his right, drew the contact, and got to the line for the go-ahead free-throws to give the Sun Devils a 67-65 advantage.
But the next possession down, Washington State sophomore guard DJ Rodman drew contact from Martin, and connected on both his free-throw attempts to tie the game.
Then there was the block, then the crazy scramble, then the wild overtime period. Let’s keep fast forwarding.
Now we’re back to Martin, and the shot that will rest right at the front of his Sun Devil highlight mixtape.
It’s very likely that ASU needed this victory to have any shot at the NCAA Tournament. Martin, on senior night, provided it. This Sun Devil team has not had a chance to see what they have at full strength yet.
Freshmen standouts Josh Christopher and Marcus Bagley will likely return for the PAC-12 Tournament, and will provide a much needed spark on both sides of the court. Or at the very least, take the pressure off a guy like Lawrence, who played 44 minutes Saturday night.
But as tonight proved once again, this team will go as far as Martin can take it. Coming off his eighth 20-plus point performance in a row, the senior might be in command of the most dangerous 10-11 team in the nation.
Keep in mind Martin is still eligible to return next season, and he didn’t exactly slam the door shut on that possibility with his postgame comments.
“I’m a man that lives in the present,” Martin said. “I’m trying to hopefully get an NBA shot, somewhere. If it doesn’t happen for me, I’d be happy to come back and play. I know that I’m always happy here.”
But if this was the last shining moment in the great career of Martin, what a way to go out.
ASU will wrap up its season series with Washington State on Monday. Tip-off is at noon MST and will air on the PAC-12 Network.