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Sun Devils rely heavily on stellar guard play in win over Utah Utes

Arizona State guard Remy Martin, right, drives to the basket while Utah's Both Gach (11) defends during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ralph Freso)

TEMPE, Ariz. — Guard U engaged.

The Arizona State Sun Devils put an end to their two-game losing skid, unloading on the Utah Utes, 83-64, behind the play of guards Rob Edwards and Remy Martin on Saturday night.

The senior-junior combo accounted for 44 of the team’s points, with Edwards carrying the hot hand early on.

Needing little time to get started, the guard efficiently ripped off 11 first-half points, shooting 4-of-5 from the field and 3-of-4 from long range.

His bucket-getting ability was on full display as Edwards helped ASU jump out to its biggest lead of the half, a 23-14 advantage with 7:43 left in the first 20 minutes. Utah did itself zero favors during the onslaught, going scoreless for nearly five minutes. ASU forced three turnovers during that span, adding six points to the scoreboard. All told, Utah committed nine turnovers in the first half, with ASU turning those mistakes into 14 points.

“Usually when you come off a loss, it’s like you want to go out and you want to impose your will early and we just found it early,” Martin said. “We simplified the game and we did what we did.”

Utah would eventually find its way back to the basket, using a 7-2 run to help trim ASU’s lead to just three points. That’s the closest Utah would get to taking a lead, however, as the Utes went scoreless for the remaining 2:54 left in the half, while ASU ripped the net from deep one last time to take a 29-23 lead into halftime.

Unlike Thursday night’s game that saw ASU falter in the second half after going toe-to-toe with No. 20 Colorado for 20 minutes, the Sun Devils took their offense to another level.

Riding the momentum of the first half, the Sun Devils came out of the locker room white hot, opening up the final 20 minutes of play on a 10-2 run, highlighted by a pair of 3’s from Taeshon Cherry and Edwards.

Upping their shooting percentage from 38% in the first half to 69% in the second, the Sun Devils turned in arguably their best half of the season. But even more impressive was the team’s ability to drop in the long ball, making 8 of its 10 attempts from 3-point land to finish the evening at 61.1% (11-of-18).

“I just think guys started gaining confidence shooting the ball, 11-of-18 from 3,” ASU head coach Bobby Hurley said. “Romello [White] was very unselfish, when we went inside he threw it out and we moved the ball around. And then we made the extra pass and multiple guys stepped into shots and made plays out there on offense.”

To put it simply, Utah had no answer for ASU’s sharpshooters as the Utes failed to lead one second of the game.

Leading the charge in the second half was Martin, who made six of his last 10 shots to finish with 20 points on the night. He added six assists and and a steal, while committing just one turnover. Sophomore forward Taeshon Cherry also provided a second-half spark, tallying 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting (2-3 from deep). Cherry had scored just one point in the first half. He finished with 11 points and five rebounds.

Edwards ended his high-percentage shooting night with a game- and season-high 24 points on 6-of-7 shooting (5-6 from long range).

“It’s a different vibe, it’s hard to load up on the others and it’s like a pin in a balloon. It takes so much pressure off you,” Hurley said of Edwards’ performance. “Certainly Rob is capable of playing that way, he’s had a way to play well against Utah in his last two games and happy to see him look that way and just hope he continues.”

In a game that saw junior forward Romello White score just five points, the Sun Devils put their confidence squarely on the team’s shooting, something that hasn’t been a consistent commodity for ASU this season. It’s an encouraging sign with yet another bout against in-state rival Arizona quickly approaching.

“We all know what we got to do and we played pretty good basketball out there today, but we are not satisfied at all,” Martin said. “[Edwards and I] both come from last year’s team and this is a good win for other guys and for us, our job is to make sure that we are still hungry. This is not good enough for Arizona State now.”

The Sun Devils will look to keep the momentum from Saturday’s win churning when they take on the Wildcats next Saturday in Tempe. In the last meeting between the two schools, Arizona had the upper hand, beating ASU, 75-47, in Tucson.

FREE THROWS:

– Hurley on freshman guard Jaelen House’s health after suffering a concussion in Thursday’s game against Colorado:

“It’s kinda day-to-day right now and just want him to recover and get normal. And then we’ll see how the week progresses with him and how he’s feeling. It’s a whole protocol that you’re going through.”

Catch all the action live on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.


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