ASU Basketball: Sun Devils sneak past Oregon State

DAYTON, OH - MARCH 14: Remy Martin #1 of the Arizona State Sun Devils gestures in the first half against the Syracuse Orange during the First Four of the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at UD Arena on March 14, 2018 in Dayton, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
DAYTON, OH - MARCH 14: Remy Martin #1 of the Arizona State Sun Devils gestures in the first half against the Syracuse Orange during the First Four of the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at UD Arena on March 14, 2018 in Dayton, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

Three-point shooting and ball movement helped ASU basketball move above .500 in Pac-12 play with Thursday’s 70-67 win over Oregon State.

In the midst of Arizona State’s recent skid, parallels can be drawn between the struggles. Slow starts, ineffective shooting and lethargic ball movement have haunted the now unranked Sun Devils.

Once again, ASU hurled out of the gates rusty against Oregon State, but that didn’t last long. After going 1-of-6 to start the game, a 10-0 run launched the Sun Devils ahead of the Beavers 19-11 with 7:46 left in the first half.

There was no looking back for the next 20 minutes. During that span, ASU was dominant.

Coach Bobby Hurley credited the defense for the Sun Devils’ first-half lead.

“The defense was really good and kept us in the game,” Hurley said. “(It) kept us into the game and gave us that advantage that we had.”

At the break, ASU led by nine, and the gap only amplified after that. The Sun Devils opened the second half on a 9-0 run and held Oregon State to 0-of-6 shooting over the first few minutes. With 17:32 left, ASU led 40-22 and had all the momentum.

The previous game, the Devils allowed a 12-0 run to Stanford at the beginning of the second half. Hurley was proud of the dramatic change of fortunes.

“The first five minutes I thought was excellent,” Hurley said. “The guys responded really well to get a big margin.”

Even though ASU outplayed Oregon State for nearly the entire contest, they weren’t in the clear. Slowly, the Beavers nudged their way back into contention, and made it a one-score game with under three minutes left.

Opposed to a strong defensive performance in the first 20 minutes, the defense let up in the second half, according to Hurley.

“Our defense wasn’t as great down the stretch,” Hurley said.

But that was far from the Sun Devils’ only issue – they were glaringly bad from the charity stripe. As a team, Arizona State shot just 45 percent from the line.

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The performance was poor enough for guard Remy Martin to jokingly utter “nothing about free throws” to the media before taking the podium.

“Those will come back to hurt us more if we don’t focus in and sink our free throws,” Martin said. “We just have to get back in the gym and really concentrate and make our free throws.”

ASU, however, made the freebies when necessary. In crunch time, the Sun Devils converted on five of their last seven free throw attempts, helping them keep their lead.

Up three with 12 seconds left, ASU had one job — guard the three-point line. The Sun Devils did just that, forcing a contested attempt by Ethan Thompson that airballed. Time expired in the ball’s flight, and ASU held on to a 70-67 win.

For 35 of the 40 minutes, ASU once again looked like a national contender. Other than free-throw shooting, the Sun Devils were prolific on offense.

Against Stanford, ball movement stalled throughout the game and disrupted the offense’s flow. That wasn’t the case Thursday when 15 of the Sun Devils’ 25 field goals were assisted.

This was a vast improvement from the prior game, but Hurley still noticed room for improvement.

“I think that we did a pretty good job of that,” Hurley said. “We still over-dribbled a few times, so we gotta continue to clean that up. But I thought we did pretty well.”

Another area that clicked on offense was three-point shooting. For what the Sun Devils couldn’t do at the line, they made up for it from deep.

ASU ended the game shooting 40 percent (10-of-25) from beyond the arc, and Taeshon Cherry hit a team-high four threes.

With 12 points, Cherry was second on the team in scoring and shot 4-of-5 from three. Hurley said this game could be crucial for the freshman’s development.

“He was very locked in,” Hurley said. “A game like this, I think, can be a boost to his confidence moving forward.”

Just ahead of Cherry was Rob Edwards, who led the team with 13 points.

For ASU, the toughest challenge defensively was matching up with Tres Tinkle, who averages over 20 points per game. The Sun Devils, though, held him to a 7-of-19 shooting night.

While Tinkle still scored 21 points, Edwards said the team did an exceptional job of limiting the big man’s production. Except for toward the end.

“I think we did a pretty good job until the closing minutes,” Edwards said. “We let him roam free, and he wasn’t really attacking the rim that much. That’s just something that we’ve got to correct.”

Sure, the game was closer than fans probably hoped. But at the end of the day, the Sun Devils escaped victorious.

Now 3-2 in league play, ASU hosts Oregon on Saturday in hopes of earning the first Pac-12 sweep of the year. Most recently, the Ducks upended Arizona in Tucson 59-54, and they are riding a two-game winning streak.

Next. ASU Basketball: Pac-12 troubles adding “more pressure” to NCAA Tournament hopes. dark

“This gives us an opportunity to play a team on Saturday that’s won two in a row,” Hurley said. “It’s an exciting opportunity on Saturday.”

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