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ASU’s season still alive in upcoming rivalry game against Arizona

Remy Martin #1 of the Arizona State Sun Devils reacts against the Georgia Bulldogs during the second half of the NCAAB game at Desert Financial Arena on December 14, 2019 in Tempe, Arizona. The Sun Devils defeated the Bulldogs 79-59. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

TEMPE, Ariz. – When Arizona State faces the Arizona Wildcats Saturday, the basketball rivalry on its own will put an electric charge through the crowd at Desert Financial Arena.

But for the Sun Devils, it’s a must-win game no matter what the atmosphere is like.

“We know that it’s going to be a battle in there,” ASU coach Bobby Hurley said Thursday. “I’m excited that Romello (White) is at full strength, and hopefully he’ll be who he normally is. But it’s a collective thing. They (the Wildcats) have great size around the basket and a lot of talent.”

White, a top forward, struggled against the Wildcats earlier this month, missing all three of his field goal attempts and both free throw attempts in just over 23 minutes of play. Collectively, the Sun Devils showed a lag that manifested throughout their offense that resulted in a 28-game loss. The Sun Devils were bad at the free-throw, making just eight of 19 attempts, and worse from the 3-point arc, connecting on three of their 21 attempts, a dismal 14-percent.

“You look at each game as its own entity,” Hurley said. “That’s how I’m looking at this particular game. There’s been a lot of craziness going on this year across the board in college basketball, and when you are done with your game, you just have to let it go and think about the next one.

“So, I don’t think we’re really dwelling on the first game or what the score was. I don’t think that’s going to have much of a factor on Saturday night.”

But there will be one crucial factor.

The Sun Devils face the task of trying to limit three Wildcats who are among Pac-12 statisical leaders. Freshman guard Nico Mannion is leading the Pac-12 with 6.1 assists per game. Guard Josh Green is seventh with 1.6 steals per game. And freshman forward Zeke Nnaji ranks ninth in the league at 16.7 points per game.

Meanwhile, the Sun Devils are now working with a healthier Romello but freshman guard Jaelen House is listed as day-to-day dealing and in concussion protocol. Guard Remy Martin continues to boast his teammates while riding a streak of six games in which he has scored 20 points or more.

But Martin needs help and is counting on White to provide it.

“The way he’s (White) been playing and the way he’s been very unselfish in passing the ball out … he’s ready,” Martin said. “He’s been practicing really well, so we’ll all be ready to fight and give you guys a good one.”

He also singled out teammate Taeshon Cherry.

“Taeshon, he’s been hitting his shots in practice,” Martin added. “He’s been playing hard on the defensive end, getting a little bit smarter on the defensive end (and) paying attention on little details a lot of guys don’t focus on. He’s doing a tremendous job of locking in and making sure he switches when needed.”

With ASU (2-3, 11-7) well into the thick of the Pac-12 Conference race, a Sun Devils win against the Wildcats (3-2, 13-5) would be a crucial push of momentum into next week’s winnable games on the road at Washington State (3-4, 12-8) and Washington (2-5, 12-8).

“It’s a very winnable game (and) the conference is how it is right now,” Martin said. “It’s everybody beating each other. This will be a great win for us to kind of get us going. I think that once we get going and once we rack up a couple wins, it’s going to be hard for us to deal with. Because the success that comes with winning, some of the guys have never felt that before. So once that happens, we are going to be very hard to deal with.”


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