Martin leads Arizona State to 72-64 win over Arizona
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Arizona State faced the weight of a long road losing streak to its biggest rival, the need for a win to strengthen its NCAA Tournament hopes.
The Sun Devils went into the game without one of their best perimeter players, had another struggle finding his shot once it started and several others in foul trouble.
Remy Martin and his bouncy hair rode to their rescue.
Aggressive and inspired, Martin had 27 points, eight rebounds and seven assists to lead Arizona State to a 72-64 win over rival Arizona on Saturday.
The Sun Devils swept the season series with the Wildcats for the first time since 2008-09, James Harden’s sophomore season, and ended an eight-game losing streak at Arizona’ McKale Center.
“We need players like him,” Sun Devils coach Bobby Hurley said. “When the game is on the line, he finds a way to make a shot.”
The Sun Devils (21-9, 12-6 Pac-12) played without forward Taeshon Cherry due to concussion-like symptoms and guard Rob Edwards struggled to find his shot, finishing with two points on 0-of-5 shooting.
Arizona State also had multiple players in foul trouble, allowing Arizona to hang around.
Martin and Luguentz Dort carried the load.
Martin had a career-high 31 points and eight assists the first game against Arizona. He was on the mark in the rematch, hitting 10 of 17 shots, and played superb defense, his hair bouncing as his head bobbed while chasing Arizona ball-handlers.
Dort was the spark early and fought through foul trouble of his own to finish with 15 points, helping the Sun Devils all but lock down an NCAA Tournament berth for the second straight season.
“It was a big win, for the program, for coach Hurley, for all of us,” said Arizona State’s Kimani Lawrence, who had 10 points.
Arizona (17-14, 8-10) kept up with the Sun Devils well into the second half despite fighting its own foul trouble. The Wildcats finally succumbed in the final five minutes after Justin Coleman and Brandon Williams, their top two ball-handlers fouled out.
Ryan Luther and Brandon Randolph had 12 points each for Arizona, which closed the regular season with nine losses in 11 games.
“A lot of times in games like this, you have to play to win,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said. “You have to roll the dice.”
The Sun Devils boosted their NCAA Tournament chances last Sunday, winning at Oregon State to earn the No. 2 seed in next week’s Pac-12 Tournament.
Arizona State won the first meeting with rival Arizona 95-88 in overtime on Jan. 31.
Dort had eight points early in the rematch, but went to the bench with two fouls, including a technical for taunting Arizona’s Dylan Smith after hitting a 3-pointer.
Arizona led by six, but went nearly nine minutes without a field goal to allow Arizona State to rally.
The rivals were tied 33-all at halftime.
The second half opened with a series of missed shots, ugly turnovers and plenty of screaming at the officials by both coaches.
Arizona State started to take control by turning up the defense, holding Arizona without a field goal for more than five minutes while building a 52-44 lead.
The Wildcats weren’t done just yet. Arizona made four straight shots and the Sun Devils started taking questionable ones, their lead down to 55-54 with seven minutes left.
Arizona point guard Justin Coleman fouled out with five minutes left after Brandon Williams fouled out earlier, leaving the Wildcats without their two primary ball-handers.
Arizona State took advantage, stretching the lead to nine in the closing minutes, sending Arizona’s seniors off with a loss in their final home game.
“We had a lot of bad games,” Coleman said. “But coach believed in us. We had a lot of adversity and stayed together.”
Arizona State solidified its NCAA Tournament resume with a hard-fought win in a difficult road environment.
Arizona’s season-long struggles continued, leaving the Wildcats needing a strong run at the Pac-12 Tournament just to get an NIT bid.
Arizona kept the Sun Devils within reach, but kept hurting itself with turnovers. The Wildcats had 17 that led to 23 points for Arizona State, erasing any chance of pulling out a victory.
“One thing we’ve done a real good job of is taking care of the ball,” Miller said. “Regardless of who our opponent is, if they can get 23 points off our turnovers, that’s not going to be a good thing for us.”
Arizona State has an opening-round bye and will start the Pac-12 Tournament on Thursday.
Arizona starts the Pac-12 Tournament on Wednesday.