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Arizona State rides strong first half to Hurley’s first ASU tourney win

St. John's Mustapha Heron (14) shoots against Arizona State's Romello White (23) and Zylan Cheatham (45) during the first half of a First Four game of the NCAA men's college basketball tournament Wednesday, March 20, 2019, in Dayton, Ohio. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

The Arizona State Sun Devils had the luck of the draw in their First Four matchup.

St. John’s was awful on Wednesday night against the Sun Devils in the NCAA Tournament, and more importantly, ASU did enough on their end to take advantage and comfortably beat the Red Storm 74-65. It’s the Sun Devils’ first tourney win in 10 years and Bobby Hurley’s first as head coach of the program.

In the first half, St. John’s shot 9-of-31 from the field, missed four free throws and committed eight turnovers. On the other end, ASU was defending well, hitting shots and executing more than they’ve been known to in order to lead by 13.

“I really love how we started the game and really took control of the game,” Hurley said after the game via ASAP Sports.

But the biggest difference in the game was the stretches when the Sun Devils weren’t playing well. St. John’s had multiple opportunities to cut the deficit and seize the momentum up for grabs.

When ASU was up 35-17 with 5:17 left in the first half, the Sun Devils scored only three points for the remainder. St. John’s had four turnovers and shot 1-of-5 over that time, posting a 4-for-6 mark at the foul line.

In the opening 10 minutes of the second half, Arizona State scored only 12 points. The Red Storm made four of their first five shots to get the lead down to seven, but from that point on in the next six-plus minutes, St. John’s missed nine straight shots, three free throws and turned the ball over three times.

The Red Storm stuck around, not allowing ASU to pull away and truly blow the doors open and that eventually got us to the end of the game where St. John’s was down seven with 2:10 to go. Right on cue with an opportunity to close the gap in front of them, Justin Simon missed both free throws for the Red Storm and their press defense resulted in an open dunk for ASU.

Arizona State had 21 turnovers but St. John’s woeful 32.4 percent shooting from the field and 16 turnovers of its own was the great equalizer.

Sun Devils freshman guard Luguentz Dort had one of his better games of the season.

Scoring efficiently and finishing around the rim, Dort scored 21 points. Senior forward Zylan Cheatham added 14 points and 10 rebounds.


The Sun Devils take on Hurley’s old team Buffalo on Friday at approximately 1 p.m.

“I’m going to say we didn’t pack for just one game,” Cheatham said. “We’re really locked in. We’re really focused. And obviously this is a big step in the right direction. But we’re not content by any means. We’re hungry for more. We want to take this season as far as it can go.”

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