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ASU offense erupts in second half to knock off Cal on senior day

(AP Photo/Darryl Webb)

TEMPE, Ariz. — Senior day is a time where a team can fall into the pile of emotions that the day brings with it — or rise to the occasion.

The Arizona State Sun Devils (19-8, 10-5) hit both sides of the spectrum, using a big second half to take down California (5-22, 0-15), 69-59, in ASU’s final regular-season home game.

“Those games are really tricky and difficult when you add something like [senior day] that’s out of the normal routine,” Bobby Hurley said after the win.

Although it was a double-digit victory, the Sun Devils had to dig themselves out of a hole to take home the win Sunday night.

While ASU led for most of the first half, Cal kept it close, making it a game with a little over five minutes to play before halftime.

After hitting a three to cut the ASU lead to just two points, Cal guard Grant Anticevich nailed another, giving the Golden Bears the lead with 5:23 to play.

Cal continued to find the basket, ending the half on a 13-2 run and taking a 34-28 lead at halftime.

It was a half to forget for the Sun Devils.

“I just thought there was a part of us that just wanted it really fast on offense and we just didn’t let some of the half-court possessions breathe a little bit, move the ball,” Hurley said. “We’re not focused on our movements.”

In almost every category, ASU trailed Cal. The most glaring was the rebound battle and assist totals.

Usually taking the advantage on the glass, ASU trailed Cal 23-18. The Sun Devils weren’t moving the ball either, only dishing three assists in the half compared to the Golden Bears’ eight.

“We’ve been one of the better rebounding teams in the country,” Hurley said. “For whatever reason that didn’t take place. [The Bears] got too many offensive rebounds early in the half and we can’t afford to let those things happen in games.”

To make matters worse, ASU wasn’t efficient scoring the basketball. The team shot a dismal 25.9 percent (21.4 percent from long range), while Cal finished the half hitting 40 percent of its shots (44.4 percent from 3-point land).

“It was not a good sight seeing that first half,” ASU guard Remy Martin said after the game. “We had a history of doing those things, especially for teams that supposedly we’re [suppose to beat]. … We just couldn’t let that happen. We did everything we could.”

With still a half to play, the Sun Devils needed a spark to ignite the offense.

ASU senior big man De’Quon Lake and guard Luguentz Dort did just that as the first ASU points of the second half came from back-to-back slams.

“It wasn’t really just the senior day,” Lake said of his performance. “I just wanted to get myself going, get the team going and bring a lot of energy.”

Lake finished with eight points, two blocks and six rebounds. Fellow senior Zylan Cheatham put up eight points and 12 rebounds, two points shy of a double-double.

Looking like a completely different team out of the locker room, ASU couldn’t miss to open up the second half.

Going 8-for-8 from the hardwood, the Sun Devils turned the first-half deficit into a second-half lead, going on a 19-5 run.

The first miss of the half didn’t come until there was just over 12 minutes to play in the game.

“I just thought our approach was better, our aggression was better without fouling,” Hurley said of the team’s second half explosion. “There were a lot of things that went against at the end of the first half that were a little unfortunate so we had to come with the deficit when it could have been a lot closer.

“We overcame that and the guys looked like they were putting together consecutive, determined defensive possession where we’re pressuring the ball, moving our feet, contesting shots and rebounding. When you do all those things then good things will happen.”

The team looked noticeably loose and it paid dividends as ASU found its shooting stroke. As a team, the Sun Devils shot 57.1 percent from both the field and from deep. They were also moving the ball around more as they recorded eight assists in the half. ASU got back on the boards too, winning the battle, 17-12.

A big part of the team’s ferocious tear in the half was courtesy of ASU guard Rob Edwards.

After scoring just two points in the first half, Edwards erupted in the second, dropping 14 points to go along with two rebounds, an assist and two steals. He finished with 16 points.

Dort paced the Sun Devils on offense, scoring 22 points. He also had two assists and six rebounds.

“I think you have to do what it takes to win at this time of the year,” Hurley said. “You have to find a way through a game that may not be your best game and that’s what we discovered tonight in the second half.”

The Sun Devils hit the road for their remaining three games of the regular season, taking on the Oregon Ducks on Thursday.

FREE THROWS

– Cheatham on his interactions with ASU fans after each game:

“I’m the type of person that still gets chills when someone knows my name without me introducing myself. The way [the fans] have embraced me since the moment I stepped on campus has just been surreal; unbelievable to be honest. That five to 10 minutes I get to spend with them [walking to the tunnel] is the least I can do.

“They sacrifice so much time to come here and watch us play and support us through thick and thin so that five to 10 minutes that I spend with them is the least I can do. And I really cherish each of those moments. Those are going to be very memorable for me.”

– Hurley on the home atmosphere:

“The whole body of the season the crowds were outstanding. When I was potentially critical I guess it was more to try and remind everyone that we need them because how our players feed of their energy they brought all year.

“I think across the board, our fans have showed up and when you have recruits here and they see that type of environment it helps for the future and certainly makes it a great place for our players to want to perform their best.”

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