ASU uses extended second-half run to blow past Oregon
From the tip, Arizona State’s game against Oregon looked to be one that could set the tone for the rest of the conference season.
Would the Sun Devils, anointed the Pac-12 favorite after a strong non-conference season, escape mediocrity and push towards the top of the conference or fall back into the middle of the pack?
ASU answered that emphatically, scoring 19 consecutive points in the second half to put away Oregon, 78-64.
Five Sun Devils scored in double figures — led by Zylan Cheatham’s 17 points — and the Ducks shot just 33 percent.
The victory also secured ASU’s first undefeated weekend of Pac-12 play and jumped the Sun Devils into third place in the conference.
“That was a gutsy effort, really a thing of beauty the last 10 minutes how we played on both ends of the floor,” ASU coach Bobby Hurley said. “I was proud of my guys and it was a total team effort.”
“As good a 10 minutes as we played all season.”
It quickly became clear the game would be one that could be a season changer.
The intensity was there early. ASU (13-5, 4-2) made 7 of its first 11 shots.
The chippiness of a meaningful conference game was also present. A steal, dunk and ensuing 3-point play from sophomore Kimani Lawrence led to a technical foul for taunting on freshman Taeshon Cherry late in the first half.
KIMANI. LAWRENCE. 👀
How ’bout a steal + SLAM + and-1.
— Pac-12 Network (@Pac12Network) January 20, 2019
Oregon’s Payton Pritchard, who had a game-high 20 points, even banked in a 3-pointer at the buzzer to tie the game at 39 at halftime.
The intensity grew even greater in the second half.
Oregon (11-7, 2-3) kept ASU at arm’s length — literally — early in the period.
The Ducks’ offensive rebounding prowess led to several second-chance points and they built a 54-50 lead with 8:37 left after a Louis King 3-pointer.
It was then that ASU made its dominant run, but almost eight minutes before it, had a play that personified the 19-0 push.
Cheatham tomahawk dunked over former ASU commit Kenny Wooten, dropping the jaws of his teammates and the almost 13,000 in the crowd.
“He’s an elite shot blocker and I didn’t want to end up on the other side of SportsCenter,” Cheatham said. “So it was pretty much me or him when we got in the air and I won this battle.”
ON. HIS. HEAD.
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) January 20, 2019
Cheatham was strong down the stretch, but it was ASU’s bench duo of Cherry and Lawrence that sparked the rally.
Cherry banked in a 3 — his fifth of the night — then Lawrence followed with a 3 of his own to give ASU a 56-54 lead, one it would never relinquish.
Not only did Oregon, which shot just 26 percent in the second half, start missing shots but the Sun Devils continued to score.
Cheatham, Luguentz Dort and Remy Martin, who had a game-high eight assists, all finished down low.
The Sun Devils even made their free throws late — they finished 17-of-21 — to end any chance of an Oregon comeback.
At its apex, ASU held a 16 point lead with 3:52 left.
“Play defense, that leads to offense, we’re all going to get hyped, the crowd’s going to get hyped,” Cherry said. “(If we do that), we’re going to have a run and we had that tonight.”
The Sun Devils now head to Los Angeles to face UCLA and USC before returning home against UA.
A strong three-game stretch would have in prime position to contend for the Pac-12 title in the second half of the season.
But they’ll need more strong performances like the one against the Ducks.
“To know you’re playing a team that’s playing pretty well and to do what we were able to do shows where we can take it if we focus on the right things,” Hurley said.