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Sharpshooting Sun Devils fire away from long range in win over UCLA

Arizona State's Remy Martin (1) and Romello White (23) celebrate during the first half of the team's NCAA college basketball game against UCLA on Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Darryl Webb)

TEMPE, Ariz. — The 2020 version of the Arizona State Sun Devils isn’t known for their shooting prowess from beyond the arc.

Entering play this week, the Sun Devils ranked dead last in 3-point shooting among Pac-12 teams at 30.5% (143 of 469). They sat at 304th in the country.

But take a look at Thursday night’s box score and it’ll tell you a whole different story.

Shooting lights out throughout the evening, the Sun Devils (14-8, 5-4), donning the throwbacks, had little trouble putting away the UCLA Bruins (12-11, 5-5), taking down the visiting squad 84-66 behind a plethora of 3’s.

Getting the barrage started was junior forward Kimani Lawrence, stroking back-to-back 3-pointers for ASU’s first two made baskets of the game.

The two early makes unleashed the flood gates.

While missing their mark on the third 3-point attempt of the game, the Sun Devils didn’t shy away from knocking down treys, making their next six 3-pointers of the half. The only other miss came as time expired in the half, with senior guard Rob Edwards shooting over a UCLA defender.

All told, the team connected on eight of its 10 tries (80%) from long range. Leading the way in the half was Lawrence and junior forward Khalid Thomas, who finished the first 20 minutes with 18 points combined on 6 of 6 shooting from 3-point land.

Lawrence’s first half was undoubtedly a positive for both him and the team.

“I believe he can make shots, it’s a small slice of what he’s going to do for us. If he’s open I have confidence with him,” Hurley said of Lawrence. “Just happy for him, just for his confidence. He’s a really good player, does a lot of things for us and happy to see him hit a few shots.”

Edwards added another six points on two of three shooting as ASU held a 38-29 advantage over UCLA.

Spreading the wealth among the other ASU shooters on the team, the Sun Devils continued to rip the net in the second half.

After watching both Lawrence and Thomas turn in a cleansheet from deep in the first half, junior guard Alonzo Verge Jr. took over in the second.

Tallying 24 points on nine of 12 shooting (3-3 from deep), Verge erupted in the final 20 minutes. The next closest scorer in the half? Fellow junior guard Remy Martin with 12 points.

“Just me making my shots, something not a lot of people have seen this year,” Verge said when asked what changed for him in the second half. “I was just consistent with it today and it was just falling, so me making my shots just opened up me attacking to the basket and just opened up my whole game.”

With his efficient second half, Verge led all ASU scorers Thursday night, finishing with 26 points, one rebound, one assist and one steal in 24 minutes. Not far behind was Martin with 15 points to go along with seven assists.

“[Verge] is just looking real smooth out there and just taking what the defense gives him and making a lot of plays,” Hurley said. “I think Remy did a very good job too of just allowing other guys to have games and he orchestrated more tonight and really set the table for other guys.”

Cleaning up down low was junior forward Romello White. With the Bruins shooting a dreadful 37.9% (22 of 58) White was busy on the glass, ending the game with eight points and 16 of the team’s 36 rebounds.

“It’s a great anchor on your defense, especially when you make a team miss, to know you got him under the basket grabbing those defensive rebounds,” Hurley said. “He didn’t get as many touches as other guys had it going from the perimeter, but he was a force in the paint for us.”

Four Sun Devils scored in double figures, compared to just two for the Bruins. As a team, the Sun Devils ended the night shooting 14 of 24 (58.3%) from 3-point range, 50% overall (29 of 58).

“I’ve always felt like we’re a better shooting team than we demonstrated in a lot of other games,” Hurley said of the performance. “Are we this good? That’s very strong but multiple guys are in a good rhythm right now and playing well on the offensive end. It’s good to see.”

Lost in the 3-point attack was the team’s ability to play smart with the basketball. Accumulating just nine turnovers to 16 assists throughout the game, the Sun Devils did very little wrong. Precise ball movement leading to wide-open looks was key in the victory.

“We’re a different team if we can make those open looks, especially with our guards and their ability to penetrate and get in the lane,” Hurley said.

The Sun Devils will look to make it three straight victories Saturday night against the USC Trojans. Tip-off is set for 8 p.m. Catch all the action live on ESPN 620 AM.

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