@SunDevilHoops’ Comeback Bid Comes up Short
By Marco Salas, Sun Devil Communications Student Intern
TUCSON, Ariz. – Remy Martin scored 21 of his game-high 24 points in the last 11 minutes as the Sun Devil men's basketball team – down by as many as 26 early in the second half – fought back to get within nine but could get no closer in an 80-67 loss at Arizona on Monday night.
The Sun Devils (4-8, 1-5 Pac-12) outscored the Wildcats (12-3, 6-3) 49-40 in the second half, but it was not enough as Arizona pulled away late in the game.
"I felt like we lacked energy early in the game. [We were] kind of lethargic out of the gate," ASU head coach Bobby Hurley said. "They were more aggressive, they got a few transition baskets which with our speed and quickness we should not give up.
"I commend our effort in the second half, but the cabinet is full with moral victory songs. [I am] enthusiastic that we put together a decent second half, but not many positives, to take out of this"
In addition to Martin, sophomore forward Jalen Graham also had a big night, as the big man posted a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds, both career highs.
The Wildcats had three players in double figures as guard Terrell Brown Jr. led the Wildcats with 18 points.
With ASU down by 24, Martin's 3-pointer with 10:30 remaining sparked a 31-16 run by the Sun Devils. Martin concluded the scoring spurt with another 3-pointer that cut Arizona's lead to 71-62 with 2:30 remaining.
The Sun Devils look to get back on track when they head home to take on Cal (Thursday at 9 p.m./FS1) and Stanford (Saturday at 8 p.m./ESPN2). Both games can also be heard on ESPN 620 AM.
"I felt like we lacked energy early in the game. [We were] kind of lethargic out of the gate. I [have] to do a better job of getting us ready to play early in the game. They were more aggressive, they got a few transition baskets, which with our speed and quickness, we should not give up. Those are really tough plays, I thought we took some really challenging shots. Our shot selection was not was not really good, but the bottom line was Arizona was the hungrier team and they were more ready to play at the start of the game, and there wasn't a whole lot we could do. I commend our effort in the second half, but the cabinet is filled with moral victories. We put together a decent second half, but [there were] not many positives to take out of this."
On Jalen Graham's Improvement
"He's finding a way to stay out of foul trouble, and that was an issue with him early in the season. He had that break, it wasn't a good thing to have to go through [being] out several weeks, but he's responded great and we had a conversation as he was getting back. He let me know, 'hey you're going to see a different guy the rest of the year,' and so far he's backed it up. He certainly has done a very good job and the other bright spot in this game is Jalen House. He just came in off the bench and provided a spark, he drew a charge, was very active, hit a couple shots, really did some nice things out there."
On how tough the season has been
"It's well documented what this team's had to go through, but you're playing your rival, your season's in a really tough spot, [and] Arizona was hungrier than us. A loss like this would happen to a team that's like 10-1 or 11-1 and might think they're a little better than they are, and then all of a sudden someone steps in and they're not ready to play and they get slapped upside the head. That shouldn't be where we're at because we haven't accomplished anything to earn the right to even come out like that. I [have to] do better and I [have] to take a hard look at those first 8-9 minutes of that half and see what needs to be changed and how we could do a better job early in the game, it's been happening quite a bit."
On why the offense got in such a funk
"We were taking some tough contested shots, we were over dribbling as well, and the ball movement wasn't crisp. At the same time, I give [Arizona] credit. They were very active on defense, they were in gaps, they were rotating, and they were physical. I think in the first 6-8 minutes, we had to pull Remy, Holland, and [Alonzo] Verge off the floor. They set the tone with aggressiveness and playing hard, and we didn't match that."
On the practices following Thursday's tough loss
"They weren't overly physical because when you have this quick turnaround, it was just more like watching the film, look at the turnovers from the first half of Thursday's game, and you'll watch some of the defensive breakdowns in the second half. [We watched] some positive stuff, like we had some really positive offensive possessions in that game, we had 52 points in the second half, so we tried to really just give everyone a good look at what we need to do and make some adjustments to some of the things they were doing offensively that hurt us. We tried to focus more on Akinjo. We did a little bit of a better job on him, but he's a really good player and had a heck of a game."
On having his team watch the movie Cinderella man
"The movie is one of my favorite sports movies, it's a great story of success. I've watched it just about every year with my team. I try to be strategic about when we watch it. I thought it was relevant, considering what we've been through this year [with] the adversity that we've gone through, the expectations that we had, and getting close to the rock bottom. James Braddock was a heavyweight champion, he was a contender that lost it all in the Great Depression but fought so hard to keep his family going. [He was] working at the docks, getting himself back to catch a break, and have an opportunity to win a heavyweight championship. He had lost it all and made a big climb back, so that was the thought behind doing it."
On developing more consistency as a team
"[In practice and games] we just kind of want to flip a switch, and we can't do that. We don't have that time right now, we're not that team. We need to be disciplined and go harder practice and it will carry on throughout the game."
On his improvement in play since returning from mono
"Buying in and just wanting to be better. [During] the two weeks I was out, I wasn't just sitting there. I was eating and doing everything I could do to be healthy, and I just had a different mentality coming in. My team was out [there], we were losing, I had to watch the team on TV rather than enjoying the game and being in the game, and it's just a whole different aspect and now I just want to come back, play hard, and be stronger and better."
"I feel like we don't practice how we play. We do a lot of one-on-one stuff in practice, but when we're running for four-on-four we don't pass the ball [and] we don't run our plays like we're supposed to. We [have to] compete in practice. Sometimes it feels like one side is getting blown out and the other side is losing really bad. Both sides just need to be competitive."
His takeaways from the movie Cinderella man
"I felt like what I took away from the movie was how he got knocked down and he came back. He didn't stop fighting. Throughout the round, even when he knew he won, he just sat there and kept fighting. I feel like at halftime we really picked it up and we just realized that we're a better team and we're not going to stop fighting, but we need to do that throughout the whole game and that's one of our issues."