TEMPE - Following a triumphant trip to Brooklyn, plenty of eyes were now focused on the upstart Sun Devils.
To follow up the statement wins against VCU and Michigan, Arizona State (5-1), Bobby Hurley and company packed the momentum on the cross-country plane ride and kept it with them in an 80-49 route of Grambling State (2-2) at home.
It’s hard to lose basketball games when your opponents shoot 27% from the field. What may be harder though, is finding a defense in the country that has been as lockdown as Arizona State’s. Having not allowed 70 points yet this year, the Sun Devils defensive pressure was taken to a new plateau against the Tigers, allowing season-lows in points, field-goal percentage and three-point percentage.
No player on the Tigers eclipsed nine points in the game.
“Our defense again was really, really strong,” said coach Hurley. “There’s a lot of potential here with this group.”
“That’s what happens when you play together,” Devan Cambridge said.
Unaffected by the coast-to-coast trek last week, the Sun Devils kept the jet engines hot straight from tipoff. Before Grambling State could even look up at the scoreboard, the Devils had already piled on 12 unanswered points to open the contest. Arizona State kept up their scoring diversity, securing those points both beyond the arc and in the paint.
“We respect our opponent,” said Devan Cambridge. “We kept our foot on the gas and just kept going.”
After having to burn an early timeout, the Tigers responded to the Sun Devils quick start with an 8-0 run of their own. But before they could get any closer, Frankie Collins stepped in with a three-ball, alley-oop assist to Devan Cambridge to get the cushion back. Add in a taken charge on defense and the pendulum had been swayed back to the home side. That 12-8 deficit would be the closest Grambling State would get to the lead following ASU’s 12-0 start.
Following his MVP performance in the Legends Classic, which got him Pac-12 player of the week honors, Desmond Cambridge Jr. took his defensive game to a high level against the Tigers. The Nevada transfer had two big blocks in this game, but it’s his brother that stole the show.
In his breakout performance as a Sun Devil, Devan Cambridge had a team high 16 points, while shooting a perfect 7-for-7 from inside the three point line.
“I’ve been getting extra shots up,” said Cambridge. “I’m just believing in myself.”
While the final score was more than pleasing, there were a couple of areas of concern for Bobby Hurley. After shooting 11-for-19 from deep in the rout of Michigan, the Devils regressed down to 3-for-14 in the first half, and 7-for-22 overall.
Rebounding was also a tall task against a bigger Grambling State squad, who won the battle on the glass 43-37.
“We gotta clean up the rebounding,” said Hurley. “We’re one rebound away from being undefeated.
While the deep ball wasn’t falling early, it didn’t come back to bite the Devils out of the break. After a quiet first half, DJ Horne made his presence known on the game with seven points in the first four minutes of the second, before totaling 15 on the day.
Horne’s big second half wasn’t the only breakout performance of the night. Senior big man Alonzo Gaffney came off the bench to add on seven points, matching his previous season total.
Despite being dressed in uniform and participating in team warm-ups, Marcus Bagley missed his fourth consecutive game to a hip pointer. After the game, coach Hurley cited contingency as the reason for Bagley’s absence.
“I’ve had a good couple games and guys are playing well,” said Hurley. “I wasn’t going to disrupt anything tonight.”
In a couple of individual firsts, sophomore wing Jamiya Neal made his seasons debut on Tuesday, going for three points and assists each in his 11 minutes to help the Devils capture their third straight win. Fan favorite Bobby Hurley (the player) also got some love, hitting his first career three-pointer as the clock winded down in the second half, much to the crowd’s enjoyment.
With Gaffney’s game up, Horne’s hot hand and a career high 16 points from Devan Cambridge, any hope of a Tigers comeback was put to bed quickly. The Devils would outscore the Tigers 46-32 in the second half to turn seal their fifth win of the season and third in a row, one that wasn’t guaranteed with the emotional high that the Michigan win brought.
“We enjoyed the win while we were there,” said DJ Horne. “We knew we had to come back down to Earth and get ready for this game though.”