ASU rides dominant defensive performance to third straight win

Nov 12, 2018, 10:37 PM | Updated: Nov 13, 2018, 8:38 am

Arizona State head coach Bobby Hurley reacts to a foul call in the first half during an NCAA colleg...

Arizona State head coach Bobby Hurley reacts to a foul call in the first half during an NCAA college basketball game against UCLA, Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

TEMPE, Ariz. — Through two games, ASU had an offensive identity.

But after scoring 182 in their first two outings, the Sun Devils turned to their defense, causing numerous headaches for the Long Beach State 49ers’ offense in their 90-58 win Monday night.

It couldn’t have been more evident in the first half.

Long Beach State led just once as ASU relied heavily on its defense, especially with Luguentz Dort not his normal self on offense.

The Sun Devil defense would get a spark from Zylan Cheatham early on as he scored ASU’s first points with a dunk then sent a 49er player packing with a forceful block on the other end just a few plays later.

From there, the Sun Devils didn’t look back as they went to work in the paint.

Using size to their advantage, ASU was able to pound the ball inside, scoring 20 of their 38 first-half points down low. ASU controlled the glass too, grabbing 31 rebounds to Long Beach State’s 19.

They paired that with dominant defense.

Long Beach could not find a rhythm for most of the first half as they shot just 19 percent (6-for-31) from the field. They ended the half with 16 points, the lowest first-half score the Sun Devils have allowed so far this season.

“I thought it was probably the best defensive performance I’ve had here as a coach so I thought it was really strong, especially the first half,” ASU head coach Bobby Hurley said after the game. “Between the overall activity of our defense, our rotating, our protecting the basket, I thought it was outstanding.”

But even though their defense shined early and the Sun Devils scored their most first-half points of the season, ASU’s offense wasn’t exactly firing on all cylinders.

Shooting 12-for-32 (38 percent), the Sun Devils struggled to find their stroke outside the paint. They were 2-for-9 from deep.

A lot of that could be due to Dort’s quiet first half. After being ASU’s catalyst on offense through the first two games — dropping 28 and 25 points, respectively — the guard was seemingly a non-factor early on as he scored just six points on 2-of-8 shooting.

But what he lacked in points, he made up for in other ways.

The freshman finished with 12 points but chipped in 12 rebounds and a strong defensive showing for ASU.

“He’s a competitor,” Hurley said of the guard. “And of course he’ll have a lot of games like he had in the first two, and he just kept playing and competing … he never got into the kind of rhythm he got into the first two games, but that’s going to happen, especially with freshman as you go through the whole season.”

In the second half, both teams started to find the bottom of the net.

After going 2-for-25 from 3-point range, the 49ers caught fire from long range, hitting six of their first nine 3-pointers.

ASU was unfazed, however, as they continued to earn their keep under the hoop, scoring 18 of their first 20 second-half points in the paint and continuing to control the rebound battle. The Sun Devils worked the 49ers on the boards, grabbing 62 to Long Beach State’s 31.

“I feel like we are more athletic, more aggressive on the offensive end and offensively,” forward Romello White said. “We outrebounded them by 30 so that just goes to show we like to get out there and run.

“We don’t have to just shoot threes. We can attack them in the paint, we can do inside-out, we can do all that.”

ASU ended the night with 44 points in the paint compared to Long Beach State’s 14.

And after allowing six deep balls, ASU’s defense tighten back up, allowing just one more 3-pointer in the game.

Remy Martin, who is still working his way back from an ankle injury, led the way for the Sun Devils.

The guard finished with 15 points, five assists and two steals while setting the tone on defense.

“I always feel better when we win,” Martin said. “I don’t care about points, I don’t care about any other attributes or anything, I don’t care about it.

“As long as we win and we win it the right way. That’s my job. I can control what I can control.”

He wasn’t the only offensive bright spot for the Sun Devils either as six players finished in double digits.

But while Hurley enjoyed seeing the offense pick it up, he was more impressed with what he saw on the other end.

“I’ve been hoping that we would get to the point that we could play defense like this, it’s always been part of what I think factors into winning completely is being able to play both ends off the floor,” Hurley said. “I’ve been feeling great about our defense and it looked strong tonight.”

Up next, the Sun Devils travel to San Francisco to take on the Dons.

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