ASU Basketball: White’s paint presence guides win over Texas Southern

TEMPE, AZ - DECEMBER 19: Romello White
TEMPE, AZ - DECEMBER 19: Romello White /

A 19-point, 14-rebound performance from Romello White set the tone as ASU basketball improved to 7-0 with an 83-71 win over Texas Southern.

Tonight’s game ball went to Zylan Cheatham. But as the redshirt senior finished his press conference, he stood, slapped the ball and echoed praise elsewhere.

“Shoutout to Romello White,” he said. “He was a beast.”

While Cheatham finished with 14 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists – the program’s second ever triple double – it was White’s 10 points and seven rebounds in the first nine minutes that opened up opportunities for Arizona State in their 83-71 victory over Texas Southern.

Clashing against the Tigers’ 7-foot-2 inch Trayvon Reed, White knew he couldn’t score with size alone. There had to be something different.

“My focus was really to get him in foul trouble early,” White said. “My focus was just going to him, going to his chest and finish[ing] through him.”

The strategy worked. Within two minutes, Reed was tagged with two personal fouls. White then went to work with dropsteps and post-hooks, creating a presence that opened up an eight-point lead for ASU by halftime.

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“He’s one of the guys that will wear an opponent down,” said coach Bobby Hurley. “He’s so physical, yet he’s still got good mobility.”

White’s presence helped ASU outscore the Tigers 44-26 in the paint and hold a rebounding margin of +14. But while he thrived, not much else did early on.

With sophomore guard Remy Martin missing his second straight game, ASU’s half court offense showed spurts of erraticism. The Sun Devils committed 19 turnovers, including 10 in the first half, which gave way to 23 points on the opposing end.

In the second half, the Sun Devils started several of their possessions through White. His presence allowed more opportunities in the paint and in transition, as the Sun Devils made 16 of their 24 shot attempts and five of their 10 3-point attempts.

“I thought we settled too much [in the first half],” Hurley said. “I think we got in the lane more, and some of our threes we did make in the second half were more drive-and-kick.”

By game’s end, each ASU starter finished with double-digit scoring, a testament to how they’ve connected without Martin and junior guard Rob Edwards in the lineup.

However, there was almost another injury scare. With the first half winding down, freshman forward Taeshon Cherry fell awkwardly and grasped his right knee, the same one he had minor surgery on this offseason.

He laid on the ground for minutes before being helped off toward the locker room. While he didn’t put any pressure on his knee, White assumed the worst.

“I was scared, because that’s my little bro,” he said. “When he went down, I was kind of like ‘damn.'”

After being checked out by ASU’s medical team, Cherry was good to go for the second half. He made all three of his shots, all 3-pointers, which helped the Sun Devils go on spurts to close the game.

The win improved ASU to 7-0 for the second straight season and extended their regular season non-conference winning streak to 20 games. Still the Pac-12’s final unbeaten team, expectations are on the rise.

Next Friday, those aspirations will be put to test against No. 5 Nevada. While this year’s team is different, the scenario is familiar.

Knowing this team still has pieces to add and areas to grow, Cheatham called it “scary” what they could still become. Like most, he can’t wait to see what’s next.

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“We’re figuring it out day-by-day,” Cheatham said. “We’re working hard, we’re doing what we can with the guys we have. And guys are stepping up big.

“It’s just added depth to our roster once we get 100 percent healthy. I think it’s going to be unbelievable.”

All quotes in this article were obtained firsthand by Devils in Detail unless otherwise noted.