Seniors lead by example in Arizona State’s blowout win over Washington
TEMPE, Ariz. — For the second time this season, the Arizona State Sun Devils hosted the first of what would be back-to-back games against the same opponent.
On Tuesday night in Tempe at Desert Financial Arena, ASU (8-11, 4-8 Pac-12) routed the Washington Huskies 97-64 in a rescheduled game that was originally slated for January. The game was also the first matchup between the two schools this season.
It’s almost become a nickname for Arizona State at this point this season, but the Sun Devils were once again shorthanded as freshmen Marcus Bagley (ankle) and Josh Christopher (back), and sophomore Jalen Graham weren’t able to suit up.
As a result, head coach Bobby Hurley was forced to deploy his ninth different starting lineup of the season that relied heavily on seniors.
Senior point guard Remy Martin led all scorers with 26 points on 8-of-15 shooting (53.3%) to go along with six assists in 30 minutes played. Senior Alonzo Verge Jr. added 16 points, six boards and seven assists on 30 minutes.
Coming into Tuesday night’s contest, Arizona State senior forward Kimani Lawrence only had 15 rebounds in his first nine games. But in his last seven contests prior to the first matchup with the Huskies, the senior forward had 45 boards.
On Tuesday night, Lawrence tied a career-high 22 points on 9-of-11 shooting (81.8%) and 12 rebounds.
“Kimani Lawrence is in a really good place right now, playing as good of basketball as I’ve ever seen him play,” Hurley said. “Just got a nose for the ball right now and just moving really well without it, finishing. Guys are doing a great job of finding him in good positions.”
“Kimani Lawrence the last two games has been outstanding,” Hurley added. “Really for the last couple of weeks Kimani has been good, but he’s taken his statistics to another level to make up for what we don’t have right now.”
The Sun Devils also continued to wreak havoc on the defensive end, something that has allowed ASU to remain competitive despite being decimated by the injury bug. Arizona State once again won the turnover battle 16-8, which led to 23 points off turnovers — something Hurley has been adamant about in order to take pressure off the offense.
“I liked our intensity and our energy on defense — we generated 12 steals,” Hurley said. “Did a nice job of making some things happen defensively and get stops, holding them to 36%, which was really good. An important thing for us was guarding the 3-point line, so we held them to 24% so that certainly helps. So defensively, very pleased with our effort.”
The Sun Devils will now have a day off before they once again host the Huskies on Thursday before senior day on Saturday against the Washington State Cougars. And with ASU having over a 20-point lead for most of the second half, the likes of Martin, and Verge Jr. only played 30 minutes while Lawrence was capped at 28.
“It’s a quick turnaround,” Hurley said. “Just to be able to get Remy out of there for the last eight minutes, he’s usually playing huge minutes. Similar for Kimani, but hopefully to also not risk the potential for another injury that we can’t afford right now.”
But while the team’s chances of making the NCAA Tournament as an at-large bid are next to nothing, Arizona State has a chance to finish the season at or above .500 heading into the Pac-12 Tournament. If the Sun Devils can catch fire while simultaneously getting healthy, Hurley and Co. will have one last crack at March Madness if they can win the conference tournament.
“It’s a really good feeling whenever we win,” Lawrence said. “We’re getting our stride… We got a good stride going on right now heading into tournament season, picking up some momentum. We lost a couple games, but we like where we’re at as a team.”
Arizona State returns to action on Thursday night at Desert Financial Arena to once again host the Washington Huskies (5-17, 4-13 Pac-12).
Tip-off is set for 5 p.m. Catch all the action on ESPN 620 AM.