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ASU men's basketball contains Markelle Fultz despite late flurry

The Sun Devil defense was largely effective against the star guard

UW freshman guard Markelle Fultz (20) looks on to the court to direct his offense during a men's basketball game against the Arizona State Sun Devils in Wells Fargo Arena in Tempe, Arizona on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017. ASU won the game 86-75. (Josh Orcutt/State Press)
UW freshman guard Markelle Fultz (20) looks on to the court to direct his offense during a men's basketball game against the Arizona State Sun Devils in Wells Fargo Arena in Tempe, Arizona on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017. ASU won the game 86-75. (Josh Orcutt/State Press)

Washington freshman Markelle Fultz finished with 28 points, eight rebounds and nine assists in an 86-75 loss to ASU basketball Wednesday night at Wells Fargo Arena. Normally, with a line like that, you'd guess that he gave the opposing team fits.

That wasn't the case — at least until the final five minutes.

Fultz scored 18 of his 28 points in the last 5:10 of the game, heavily padding his stats in a game that he was otherwise contained. Those five minutes were spectacular — and showcased why he's likely to be the first pick in the upcoming NBA Draft — but they masked an off night for the young guard.

ASU head coach Bobby Hurley praised the effort of junior guard Shannon Evans, who had the assignment on Fultz for most of the night.

"We just gave (Fultz) a lot of attention and Shannon knew he had to be right in him," Hurley said. "You can't give a guy like him a downhill run at you. 

"The few times we did that late in the game, you saw what happened."

Despite the scoring onslaught from Fultz in the game's waning moments, the Sun Devils (10-11, 3-5 Pac-12) hung on and hit their free throws. The Huskies (9-11, 2-6 Pac-12) had the misfortune of ending ASU's four-game losing skid.

Junior guard Tra Holder led the charge in the second half, putting up 21 of his 23 points in the period to fuel a strong finish. Evans supplemented his defensive performance with 25 of his own on 10-of-10 from the line.

"I really wasn't doing as much as I could have in the first half," Holder said. "I'm thankful to my teammates for believing in me and that I got the shots to fall."

The Sun Devils were solid across the board defensively, forcing players other than Fultz to beat them and not giving up as many easy looks as usual.

Evans embraced his role as Fultz's primary defender and hopes a step-back three he made ends up in the SportsCenter Top 10.

"I respect (Fultz) as a player," Evans said. "I didn't take a break — I was active, trying to get up in him and get in the passing lanes."

Hurley, being a former point guard himself, commended Fultz's skills as well.

"We took away some of his space, we crowded him some, and we gave him a lot of attention on ball screens," Hurley said. "He's a special player — got great gifts and a great feel."

This win, given that it breaks ASU's losing streak, is crucial for the Sun Devils going forward. Their next game is at 12 p.m. Sunday against Washington State at Wells Fargo Arena.

The Cougs don't have a player even close to Fultz's level, so maintaining a solid team defense will be crucial in the matinee matchup.


Reach the reporter at rclarke6@asu.edu or follow @RyanTClarke on Twitter.

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