ASU Basketball: Older and wiser, Martin is key to KU upset

LAWRENCE, KS - DECEMBER 10: Dedric Lawson
LAWRENCE, KS - DECEMBER 10: Dedric Lawson /

ASU basketball burst onto the national scene after a win over Kansas last year. To beat the Jayhawks again, it’ll take another big game from Remy Martin.

It’s been 376 days since Arizona State went into Allen Fieldhouse and stunned then-No. 2 Kansas.

With just over 15 minutes remaining and the No. 16 Sun Devils trailing 50-47, freshman guard Remy Martin collected himself well behind the 3-point line before gathering and firing a shot.

The ball cleared the rim with ease before dropping through the bottom of the net. Martin’s basket tied the game but it was a career-high 21 points in just his ninth collegiate game that led to the eventual marquee win for ASU, enabling the Sun Devils to ascend to the pinnacle of the national spotlight.

While Lawrence, Kansas is known as the birthplace of the moniker ‘Guard U’, it doubles as the location where Martin established his place within the program.

On Saturday, the two programs meet again for a rematch, the return game of a home-and-home series, in Tempe. The Sun Devils will likely turn Martin’s way against the No. 1 Jayhawks.

The lone returning guard from a season ago, Martin’s importance to the team has grown, made more clear by lingering injuries the sophomore grappled with throughout much of the non-conference schedule.

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An ankle injury suffered in the offseason hindered his speed and explosiveness on both ends of the floor, limiting Martin to anywhere from 60 to 80 percent of his usual capabilities.

Despite the setback, Martin found himself playing upwards of 30 minutes a game while trying to recover. Nonetheless, the sophomore found a way to remain a contributor.

Some of his key performances to begin the year included 15 points and five assists against Long Beach State and a 16-point, seven-assist showing in a win over then-No. 15 Mississippi State.

Since then, he’s had both of his best and worst performances of the season over the past three games, the latter coming in both of the Sun Devils’ losses.

Against No. 6 Nevada, Martin shot 1-of-10 from the floor, displaying visible frustration as a number of attempts appeared to be on target. Even so, ASU kept up with the Wolf Pack for much of the evening before falling short as Martin finished with five points, four assists, and four rebounds.

But Martin bounced back.

With ASU trailing by as many as 18 points at Georgia, he erupted for 21 points, matching his career-high to propel a come from behind victory.

However, that momentum was unsustainable after playing uncharacteristically poor against Vanderbilt in a 16-point loss. As a team, ASU shot 32 percent from the field with Martin being among the many Sun Devils to struggle offensively.

He finished 3-for-12 shooting with nine points and one assist.

By this point, the trend with Martin seems to be his ability to handle adversity well. Whether it’s a top-five team, an injury or coming off a poor game, he performs at his best.

To knock off the No. 1 Kansas, the Sun Devils will need the sophomore to be an energy  source on the floor. His teammates feed off that energy and Martin benefits from it as well.

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When Martin silenced the crowd in Allen Fieldhouse, it was clear he’d be a big part of the program’s future. Now, he’ll be called upon to ignite Wells Fargo Arena and help pull off another upset.