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Zylan Cheatham records triple-double as ASU defeats Texas Southern

(AP Photo/John Locher)

Tempe, Ariz. — If you’re going to walk into a postgame press conference cradling a basketball, it better be for good reason.

ASU senior forward Zylan Cheatham had every right to do so following his record performance against Texas Southern.

Cheatham was given a game ball from coach Bobby Hurley after recording the second triple-double in ASU history with 14 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists.

He guided the Sun Devils to a decisive 83-71 victory over the Tigers on Saturday at Wells Fargo Arena.

Sophomore forward Romello White also put in his best performance of the season, finishing with 19 points and 14 rebounds.

ASU (7-0) has now won 20 consecutive non-conference games, a streak that will be tested next week.

Up next for the Sun Devils, the lone undefeated team in the Pac-12, is No. 5 Nevada next Friday in Los Angeles.

“Man, it’s surreal,” Cheatham said of his triple-double. “I haven’t had one since high school, so to do it at the tail end of my college career back home in front of my home fans is just unbelievable.”

It seems ASU has developed a sense of pride for playing in the non-conference season.

Cheatham came an assist away from a triple-double Wednesday against Omaha and somehow found a way to top it against the Tigers (3-5).

The other Sun Devil to post a triple was Jordan Bachynski in 2012 and he did it with blocks, not assists.

White, facing 7-foot-2 Auburn transfer Trayvon Reed, recorded a double-double in the first half and forced two fouls on Reed in the first two minutes of the game.

He was the Sun Devils’ best player early and the reason ASU led by eight at halftime.

“It felt so good [to get going early],” White said. “I just had a good feeling and once that started, I wasn’t going to let up. I was just going to keep going.”

ASU’s sense of non-conference pride is also connected to the heightened importance of what a strong non-conference resume could do for a team’s NCAA Tournament chances.

The Sun Devils rode an undefeated non-conference schedule in 2017 to their first NCAA Tournament selection since 2014.

The best win on the schedule so far is against a ranked Mississippi State team in Las Vegas.

Nevada and Kansas still await ASU in December and the win over Texas Southern won’t hurt the resume.

The Tigers beat Pac-12 foe Oregon earlier in the week and beat Baylor in its season opener.

“Every year is different [in non-conference], but it’s just worked out this way,” ASU coach Hurley said. “Our schedule is going to get exciting from this point until Christmas.”

All five ASU starters finished in double figures in scoring.

Freshman Taeshon Cherry had 14 points on four 3-pointers and survived what looked to be a scary fall late in the first half.

The Sun Devils were already without rotation players Remy Martin, Rob Edwards and Mickey Mitchell, so Cherry’s loss would have further tested their depth.

Instead, he returned in the second half and helped extend ASU’s lead.

Cheatham got his triple-double when he fed freshman Luguentz Dort for a 3-pointer with under three minutes left for his 10th assist.

Dort’s three gave ASU an 80-65 lead and secured another successful night for the Sun Devils.

“We’re figuring it out,” Cheatham said. “We’re not 100 percent health-wise or the way we’re playing.

“We’re doing what we can with the guys we have and guys are stepping up big.”

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