No. 18 @SunDevilHoops Falls to No. 3 Villanova in Empire Classic Championship
UNCASVILLE, Conn. – The No. 18 Sun Devil men's basketball team ended up with a split at the season opening Empire Classic after falling to third-ranked Villanova 83-74 in the tournament's championship game.
The trio of Josh Christopher (28 points), Alonzo Verge Jr., (22 points) and Marcus Bagley (10 points) combined for 60 of ASU's points. Christopher (11-17) and Verge (7-14) knocked down 58 percent of their shots (18-31) while the rest of the team struggled to find its touch (28 percent).
SUN DEVIL FRESHMAN POINTS
35, Mario Bennett vs. #5 Arizona, Feb. 20, 1992
34, Jahii Carson vs. Stanford (Pac-12), Mar. 13, 2013
33, Luguentz Dort vs. Utah State (Las Vegas), Nov. 21, 2018
32, Jahii Carson at Washington, Feb. 2, 2013
31, Byron Scott vs. #18 Arizona, Feb. 23, 1980
30, Jahii Carson vs. #14 Creighton (Las Vegas), Nov. 24, 2012
30, Ty Abbott vs. California, Feb. 16, 2008
29, Jamal Faulkner vs. #2 Arkansas (NCAA), Mar. 17, 1991
28, Josh Christopher vs. #3 Villanova, Nov. 26, 2020
— Swish Cultures (@swishcultures_) November 27, 2020
The Sun Devils (1-1) were minus-16 on the boards (43-27) and were not able to create the high number of free throw opportunities (12-21 FTs/57 percent) nor duplicate the accuracy they had in Wednesday night's win over Rhode Island (34-46 FTs/74 percent).
Jeremiah Robinson-Earl led Villanova with 28 points while Justin Earl collected a double-double with 16 points and 12 rebounds. The Wildcats (2-0) hit 48 percent of their shots and used a 31-18 run that started over the last two minutes of the first half and continued into the first 11-plus minutes of the second half to break open what was a four-point game.
The two teams played on fairly even terms over much of the opening half with the Sun Devils leading by as many as three and the Wildcats by as many as four with six ties over the first 14-plus minutes.
After a free throw by Collin Gillespie gave Villanova a 31-26 lead, Remy Martin quickly answered with a 3-pointer to get ASU within two with 5:29 left in the half.
The Sun Devils would go suddenly go cold for the remainder of the half as they hit only one of their final nine shots. Villanova connected on 45 percent of its shots over that same span, allowing the Wildcats to take a 41-32 lead into the locker room.
Christopher (12 points/5-7 FGs) and Verge (10 points/4-6 FGs) combined for 22 points while collectively shooting 69 percent (9-13) from the floor.
The Wildcats outrebounded ASU 24-11. Although they had a 9-2 advantage in offensive rebounds, the Wildcats only had a 6-3 edge in second chance points.
The Sun Devils opened the second half with a 6-0 run – a 3-point play by Christopher and a 3-pointer by Bagley – cutting Villanova's lead to three a little. The Wildcats countered with eight-straight points of their own to take their first double-digit lead of the game, 49-38.
Christopher (jumper), Verge (free throw) and Jalen Graham (layup) combined for the game's next five points to get ASU within six, 49-43.
The back-and-forth scoring runs would continue as Villanova accounted for seven straight points to extend its lead back up to 13, 56-43, with 12:32 remaining.
The Wildcats took their largest lead of the game after Caleb Daniels' 3-pointer put Villanova up 66-49 with 8:55 remaining.
Villanova maintained its double-digit lead until Christopher's 3-pointer in the game's final seconds.
The Sun Devils opened the 2020-21 campaign with a 94-88 win over Rhode Island on Wednesday night. Martin (26 points) and Bagley (16 points) combined for 42 points in the victory.
ASU returns to action on Sunday (2 p.m. MST) when it hosts Houston Baptist in its 2020-21 home opener. The game can be seen on Pac-12 Networks.
BOBBY HURLEY QUOTES
"It was a great opportunity for us tonight to play one of the best teams in the country and you can see why they've had a track record of winning championships. They really played the right way; Robinson-Earl was a big problem for us in this game. He showed us why he is one of the best forwards in college basketball. It's a good experience for our players to see the level of competition and what it looks like at the top and we'll learn a lot from this and move forward."
WITH ONE ASSIST IN THE FIRST HALF, WHAT DID YOU THINK ABOUT THE BALL SHARING AND OVERALL FLOW OF THE GAME?
"We had 32 points at halftime which is a fair amount of points. I remember a play where Holland drove the baseline and threw it to Remy in the left corner for a shot. I think we threw it to Marcus a couple of times for some open threes. We didn't connect well and playing a team of their caliber you can't afford to miss that many shots that are fairly open. You can't get assists if you don't make the shots, so that was the issue there. I think we were 2-11 from three at halftime and a majority of them were very good shots. We're built as a team that needs to convert and its offense to play well in order to beat a team like Villanova.
DID YOU FEEL THE SAME ABOUT HOW THINGS PLAYED OUT IN THE SECOND HALF
"I liked how we came out of the half, it was great. We scored six straight and cut it to three but then we had a defensive breakdown and they hit a corner three. Once we started gaining momentum, we weren't able to continue to build off that and I felt like we were too up and down throughout the game. We would have a good two-three minutes and then some breakdowns defensively or we would start missing shots. We were very up and down throughout the whole ball game.
WHAT DID YOU LEARN ABOUT YOUR TEAM IN THESE TWO GAMES AND WHAT KIND OF RELATIONSHIP ARE YOU GUYS IN NOW?
"I like that our guys competed at the end and didn't completely cave in, I would've liked to see us make more shots. Outside of the time when the game was fairly out of hand, I thought we started connecting at that point just to keep it around 10 or nine, but we have to play better offensively and that's going to be our bread and butter. We're going to defend and defend with energy and we have to have multiple guys playing well and we didn't have enough offense to have a legitimate chance to beat a team that's this good.
YOU SEEMED TO GET IN THE LANE EARLY BUT THEY CUT THAT OFF...WHAT WAS IT THEY DID THAT KEPT YOU DOING WHAT YOU WANTED TO DO THERE?
"I think that as the half wore on, they were asking us to make shots and they were really guarding the paint well, requiring us to hit some perimeter shots and we didn't do that consistently as the half wore on, and that's where we weren't able to stay with them. We didn't really finish the way we would have hoped to. We've got some really good guards that can go off the dribble, hats off to Robinson-Earl as good as he was on offensE. He was draining shots and we had to get into his space because he was knocking down shots. He was driving us and getting to the basket, he's got the full package on offense. Defensively he was switching on to our guy who had it going the most, he was on Christopher in the first and on Verge some. He was expending all kinds of energy guarding those guys and was one of the key focal points on offense. He is a heck of an all-around player."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT WHAT THEY DID TO TAKE REMY OUT OF THE GAME?
"I appreciated that he didn't have his best stuff on offensive tonight, he just wasn't in a good groove and couldn't get it going, but he didn't force the action. He saw and noticed that Josh had a game going and I think that Verge did too to some degree. Verge is not finishing at the hoop the way I know he is capable of as we keep moving forward, but he still scored 22 points tonight. I think that he is getting closer to starting to be the guy he was for us last year. I appreciate that Remy just played and didn't force anything."
CAN YOU SPEAK ABOUT JOSH OFFENSIVELY?
"He looked locked in. He was able to get into a good groove early in the game and was able to connect on some shots. I think he showed you a glimpse of what he's capable of. It was a heck of a performance from a freshman playing against one of the best teams in the country and to have 28 points and make a lot of plays on the offensive end; kept us in a position to make a run if we got a few more stops, but I think he's on the right track right now"
HOW DO YOU PREPARE FOR A TEAM LIKE VILLANOVA ON SUCH SHORT TIME? DO YOU THINK FATIGUE SET IN?
"They're really good at what they do, and they stick to their system. They don't force anything and they really know who they are. We are searching for an identity and playing some younger guys, and we're going to improve as the year goes on. Villanova is very methodical, they play together and move without the ball, they attack matchups very well. They're different because they'll post their guards, they're backing in and if you over help they'll kick it out to a shooter. They put a lot of pressure on a defense in a number of ways."
AFTER PLAYING VILLANOVA, WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THIS TEAM AND HOW YOU CAN BUILD MOVING FORWARD?
"I enjoy playing high caliber games and playing the very best teams in a non-conference and we've done that historically. I think you learn a lot, sometimes we have success and win but it didn't go our way tonight. There's really good film for us to look at and talk about and we got to value the little things better. We had a few possessions out of timeouts where we didn't execute what we drew up in the huddle. There's attention to detail, we can't miss free throws, and we have to step in and make shots against teams like this and big games like this. We'll look at all this, try to dissect it, learn from it and get better."
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON VILLANOVA?
"They really handled us well in the second half outside of a few times we made runs at them, but they had an immediate response. They looked like a team that doesn't get rattled, plays with great poise, plays together, they trust each other, and they play both ends of the floor. I wouldn't have forecasted that a team could really stop us from scoring the way they were able to. They did an outstanding job on both ends of the floor and obviously there's a reason that they're a top five team."