‘Surging’ ASU heads to Tucson for regular season finale with Arizona
TEMPE, Ariz. — Rivalry games.
There’s always something at stake.
But while the Arizona Wildcats (17-13, 8-9) have added ammunition of potentially hurting the Sun Devils’ (20-9, 11-6) stock for the NCAA Tournament and playing in front of their fans, ASU head coach Bobby Hurley wouldn’t have it any different.
“We love these games, you couldn’t ask for a better way to finish the regular season,” the head coach said after practice Thursday. “There’s a lot at stake for [the Wildcats], it’s their senior day and they expect to win there and you want these kind of games because the next time we’re going to play is in [Las] Vegas and there’s going to be a lot at stake there.
“There’s an opportunity to try and go for a championship next week and from there get ready for the NCAA Tournament.”
While the Wildcats are having a year to forget played with injuries and outside noise, they put up quite a fight against the Sun Devils in their first matchup of the season.
Coming off a loss to USC the game prior, ASU went down to the wire with Arizona. Behind Remy Martin’s 31 points and eight assists and Zylan Cheatham’s 11 points and 22 rebounds, the Sun Devils edged out the Wildcats in overtime, 95-88.
Don’t expect anything less from both sides this time around.
“It’s going to be a war without all that [NCAA Tournament implications, national broadcast] at stake, it’s just a rivalry,” Cheatham said about the regular season finale. “Obviously you know how we feel about each other, it’s a really important game for both groups.
“I’m really excited. This is what you prepare for, this is what you play for. I’m believing in my guys and their putting in the work so I’m excited for the game.”
Other than their loss to Oregon, the Sun Devils have put together a string of solid victories to close out the regular season.
Entering Saturday’s game, ASU’s won four of its last five games, three of those coming as double-digit wins.
“I feel like this team is surging more and has the potential to do that more than last year’s team did,” Hurley said.
“March is really when you want to start peaking,” Cheatham added of his team. “We know that, we understand that. That’s pretty much the goal we’re trying to get too. We’re not too much focused on everybody else, we’re focused just on our locker room, trying to maximize each day.”
Entering play Saturday, the Sun Devils sit right on the bubble in terms of making the NCAA Tournament. They are 68th in NET rating, while being 63rd in BPI and KenPom and 55th in Sagarin. But before the madness ensues, there’s still one more regular season game to be played.
Just like his coach, Cheatham is up for the ruckus environment that is the McKale Center.
“If you don’t like playing in hostile, loud crowds, I mean this really ain’t the sport for you,” Cheatham said of the Arizona fans. “I really like it, I mean I like when opposing teams are trash talking and their fans are into it and the whole city, country’s pretty watching us. Like I said this is kinda what you prepare for.”
When: 2 p.m., Saturday.
Radio: ESPN 620 AM