‘Lunatic’ Bobby Hurley motivates ASU, then gets his first win over Arizona
TEMPE, Ariz. — It probably shouldn’t have come to overtime. The Arizona State Sun Devils had a few too many turnovers and certainly enough breakdowns defending the three-point line to feel like they’d flipped some switch that could catapult them into the Pac-12 title conversation.
They could hardly care.
Against an Arizona team down freshman point guard Brandon Williams (knee), ASU coach Bobby Hurley earned his first win, 95-88 in overtime, against the rival Wildcats in seven tries. That’s all that mattered Thursday at Wells Fargo Arena.
“I mean, I’m right now, I’m exhausted to be honest,” Hurley said. “It hasn’t sunk in what this means to me other than we got another conference win, we’re 6-and-3 and we’re moving on to next week.”
Only Hurley didn’t explain the 92 reasons for his exhaustion.
Yes, he was his usual emphatic self on the sidelines. At one point, he got hit by a loose pass, dropped to the floor and sprung up only to get in an official’s ear.
According to his players, that was the second most insane thing he did Thursday.
Prior to the game, Hurley brought his players on the court instead of going over film first as the team usually does. He made the Sun Devils read off the six prior losses to Arizona during his time coaching ASU and ran a sprint for each of the 92 total points he’s lost to the Wildcats by.
“He’s a lunatic, he’s crazy,” said forward Zylan Cheatham. “Every point differential, he ran a line for each point.”
After three years of losing to Arizona, Hurley finally got the monkey off his back thanks to his two best players outplaying UA’s two best players.
Take your pick of whom to award the game ball to: ASU point guard Remy Martin scored a career-high 31 points to go with eight assists. Cheatham grabbed 22 rebounds.
Hurley’s motivational tactics aside, there was also execution from the Sun Devils.
Arizona point guard Justin Coleman, who co-led his team with 19 points, began picking ASU apart off pick-and-rolls. In the second half Cheatham matched up against the diminutive guard, acting as fire extinguisher.
That move Hurley credited to assistant Rashon Burno. But at the moment ASU needed Cheatham’s defense on Coleman most, the Wildcats got the switch off a screen, and it was center Romello White on an island against Coleman, who stepped back to drill a three atop the arc to tie the game, 83-all, with 19.1 seconds left.
Overtime came after a flubbed ASU final possession.
Another general positive for the Sun Devils came in Martin’s tempo. While he took and made his share of itchy-trigger threes, including one 25-foot-plus shot with the clock winding down, Hurley liked his patience on ball screens; it allowed plays to develop and Martin to find rolling bigs with bounce passes that led to dunks.
Martin also scored eight of ASU’s 12 points in overtime.
Defensively, there were a few more problems for the Sun Devils. Along with Coleman’s 19, Arizona got 19 more points from forward Ryan Luther, who hit five threes as UA went 14-of-28 from deep by the end of the night, making up for its 40 percent shooting overall.
“We were losing shooters and we gave up way too many offensive rebounds,” Hurley said afterward, adding ASU needed to go to a switch-everything defense to stem confusion that remained even after simplifying things.
But this was just about keeping the Sun Devils’ head above water in the conference race — at least to Hurley.
Cheatham went to South Mountain High School before his three-year college career at San Diego State and then a transfer to ASU.
“For me personally growing up here … there’s no other way to say it, the dominance UofA has had,” Cheatham said. “It means a lot to me just considering all the stuff I’ve witnessed this program go through.”
Added Martin: “It’s personal. Me loving Hurley, me loving the ASU community, seeing what it’s been through against UofA … why not take a turn in history and keep it like that?”