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ASU finds success early from deep, pulls away from Stanford

Arizona State guard Rob Edwards (2) drives between Stanford's Bryce Wills (2) and Oscar da Silva (13) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019, in Tempe, Ariz. Arizona State won 80-62. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

TEMPE, Ariz. — With March squarely in their minds, the Arizona State Sun Devils came into Wednesday night’s matchup looking to build off their road win over Utah.

Hitting from beyond the arc early and often, the Sun Devils (18-8, 9-5) capitalized on Stanford’s miscues, taking down the Cardinal (14-12, 7-7), 80-62.

Although the Cardinal, winners of five of their last six contests, were down their leading scorer in KZ Okpala, Stanford kept it close with ASU for much of the first half.

Shooting nearly identical percentages from the field and winning the points-in-the-paint battle, the Cardinal seemed to had made up for Okpala’s absence.

There’s no better equalizer than the 3-pointer, however.

Going 6-of-14 from long range in the first half, the Sun Devils snubbed out any Stanford momentum. It was the complete opposite for Stanford, which went 2-for-8 (25 percent) from 3-point land.

“You can’t ask for a whole lot better,” Hurley said when asked about the team’s defense. “I think part of it was just our pressure … and we were just more aggressive.”

Using the spark provided from beyond the arc, the Sun Devils finished out the first half, making their final four buckets to extend their lead to eight points, 42-34.

“It was a very balanced game tonight, we didn’t have a real standout on offense,” Hurley said. “Rob (Edwards) was really good and Remy (Martin) made some big plays, but everyone kinda did their part, especially in the first half. … We got good production from our bench in the first half which I thought was a big plus.”

Leading the charge was Taeshon Cherry, who dropped in three 3-pointers, on 3-of-6 shooting. He paced all Sun Devil scorers with nine points at the half.

But just as it looked like the forward would continue his hot streak in the second half, his emotions got the best of him.

After getting assessed a Flagrant 1 in the first half for getting tangled up with a Stanford player, Cherry got called for tripping after missing a 3-pointer. He was given a Flagrant 2 and was ejected for the remainder of the game. He finished with 11 points.

“Taeshon was kinda like me as a freshman,” Hurley said. “He’s got so much spirit and emotion and raw energy that you gotta try to harness it and control it. And I was bad with officials, I was bad if I made a mistake — body language and things — and he’ll learn and he’ll mature but he’s a super talented guy.

“We’ll work with him so that he puts this behind him.”

Seemingly unfazed by the ejection, the Sun Devils continue to go to work behind guards Edwards and Martin.

Even with multiple players in foul trouble.

“He showed great patience on offense, he was very efficient,” Hurley said of Edwards. “He was 6-of-8 and had a number of good passes as well and had five rebounds and played good defense.

“Zylan (Cheatham) was again in foul trouble … It wasn’t his night per se, so you have another weapon out there, another guy you know you can go to that can create and make a play.”

Edwards and Martin led the way for ASU, dropping 16 points apiece and combining for 10 assists and 10 rebounds.

“It feels good, just trying to get confidence for March and tournament time so just trying to pick it up and help everybody else so that we can get ready, win games,” Edwards said of his performance. “That’s what we gotta do.”

Just as Stanford looked to be clawing back in the game, Edwards squashed any whiff of a comeback with a big three to push the lead to 14 points with just over two minutes to play.

Martin added the exclamation point on the game, going through the legs to find De’Quon Lake for final ASU slam of the night.

“It was just instinct,” Martin said of the assist to Lake. “That’s just my style, my playground style, and I’m lucky to have a coach that lets me do that.”

Hurley, who donned the black shirt on the sideline Wednesday, had a feeling of what he was going to get out of his team.

“This is my gangster shirt,” Hurley said of his attire. “The guys played like gangsters out there. They played hard, they took control of the game, they battled, they fought and so I enjoyed wearing my black shirt tonight.”

It was evident the players took notice.

Up next, the Sun Devils look to knock off another northern California team at home when they take on California Sunday. Tip-off is scheduled for 4 p.m. on ESPN 620 AM.

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