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Remy Martin’s big 2nd half helps Arizona State avoid upset to GCU

Arizona State guard Remy Martin (1) shoots against Grand Canyon during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Sunday, Dec. 13, 2020, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ralph Freso)

PHOENIX — When Remy Martin opted to return to Tempe and withdraw from the NBA Draft, it was clear the senior guard would be the unquestioned leader on the court this season for the Arizona State Sun Devils.

So on Saturday across town in Phoenix against the Grand Canyon Antelopes when the Lopes took the lead on a 3-pointer with 23.7 seconds left in regulation, it wasn’t surprising who would get the ball to make the game-saving shot.

The ball was passed to Martin in the corner, and he drained a 3-pointer, giving No. 23 Arizona State a 71-70 lead with six seconds left as the Sun Devils held on and avoided a crushing upset defeat to Grand Canyon.

“I’ve gotten coach’s respect throughout the years and I know that he trusts me making that big shot,” said Martin, adding he felt confident in his ability to come through for the team after all the work he put in during the offseason.

Hurley told reporters after the game that Martin will always be targeted late in games.

“You trust your players in moments like that they’ll make a big shot,” head coach Bobby Hurley said.

“He wants those moments, certain guys thrive in those moments.”

It wasn’t just Martin’s history with Hurley that got him the ball, it was his play in the second half.

Martin scored 23 points in the final 20 minutes of play to finish with 31 for the game, hitting all three chances from beyond the arc in the second half.

It was a second-half performance the Sun Devils desperately needed after a lackluster start.

Arizona State committed 12 fouls in the opening 20 minutes and put GCU into the bonus nine minutes into the game. The ‘Lopes took full advantage, scoring 13 of their 30 first half points at the charity stripe.

The Sun Devils, meanwhile, couldn’t find the bottom of the basket. Arizona State at one point in the first half went nearly seven minutes without a field goal, spending most of the time hovering around a 30% shooting mark.

Grand Canyon wasn’t much better, going nearly six minutes without a field goal while relying on Arizona State’s fouls to get points from the free throw line.

The ‘Lopes weren’t the only one taking advantage of mistakes as Arizona State was able to score 11 of its 29 first half points off GCU turnovers. The Sun Devils continued to feast on the ‘Lopes’ mistakes in the second half with 12 more points off turnovers.

Arizona State held a lead for just over five minutes of the first half of play, but they picked it up near the end with a 9-4 run to take the lead with a minute remaining before the break.

As was the story in the first half, however, the Sun Devils immediately gave the lead back by shooting themselves in the foot with a steal and an open layup by GCU’s Jovan Blacksher Jr. to give the ‘Lopes a one-point advantage heading into the locker room.

Arizona State came out of the locker room a different team, shooting at a 54.8% clip.

While the Sun Devils picked up their shooting game, the ‘Lopes did as well.

Grand Canyon made 55.6% of its chances in the final 20 minutes of play, nearly matching the game total from their win against Nevada on Friday, after shooting a 38.1% clip in the first half.

The Sun Devils at times in the second half appeared like they were going to take control of the game.

After a back and forth opening to the second half, a 7-0 run at the midway point gave Arizona State an eight-point lead.

Back-to-back layups turned into three points due to Arizona State fouls directly followed and brought Grand Canyon within two.

The Sun Devils were up by six points around the five minute mark of the second half, but Grand Canyon went on a 12-4 run culminating with Alessandro Lever’s 3-point basket to give the ‘Lopes a lead with 30 seconds left, setting up Martin’s game-winning shot.

“It was close, they played a hell of a game,” Martin said. “We knew it was going to be tough.”

Lever, who stands 6-foot-10, had 18 points on the night and he wasn’t the only big man to give Arizona State issues on the glass.

Asbjorn Midtgaard, a 7-foot center, added 14 points and nine rebounds for the ‘Lopes.

Blacksher Jr., who scored 22 points in the Lopes’ last game, led the Lopes with 21 points on Saturday.

The win for Arizona State improves the Sun Devils to 4-2 on the season as they make the 17-mile trip back to Tempe to host UTEP on Wednesday at 7 p.m.


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