It was only fitting. After missing an alley-oop that would’ve given redshirt senior forward Zylan Cheatham a triple-double on Wednesday, freshman guard Luguentz Dort more than made up for it Saturday, knocking down a three-pointer with 2:46 left in the game to secure only the second triple-double in ASU history.
“When you get a triple-double, it’s pretty special,” coach Bobby Hurley said. “It’s something that really hasn’t been done here, these things don’t happen too often.”
Cheatham played like a man on a mission, often taking complete control of the offense en route to a 14 point, 13 rebound, 10 assist performance.
With ASU still depleted by a multitude of injuries, a hefty share of the offensive burden was placed on his shoulders. Cheatham responded with one of the most complete performances in school history, keeping the Sun Devils unbeaten with an 83-71 victory over Texas Southern.
“I was just playing with high energy, doing what I do, impacting the game in various ways, defensively, offensively, and I looked up and I had another chance,” Cheatham said. “I almost couldn’t believe it, there’s no way I have another chance for a triple-double. I decided to take advantage of it, I talked to Hurley about it and he was excited, and he just told me to just go do what you do.”
Despite never trailing in the game, ASU failed to pull away as Texas Southern managed to keep the deficit reasonable for the majority of the game.
Much of that is due to a poor offensive showing from the Sun Devils, who finished the game shooting 55.4 percent (31-56) from the field and 32 percent (8-25) from three. ASU’s woes from the free throw line also continued Saturday night, as the team shot an atrocious 52 percent (13-25) from the charity stripe.
“I thought we took too many threes in the first half, and I think we settled too much,” Hurley said. “(In the second half) I thought we got in the lane more, and the threes we did make were more drive and kick.”
Much of the team’s offensive problems stem from the loss of sophomore guard Remy Martin, who missed his second straight game with an ankle injury. His presence on the court can’t be fully quantified with numbers in the box score, and much of ASU’s issues would be solved by a facilitator of Martin’s caliber.
With the Sun Devils traveling to the Staples Center to take on the No. 5 Nevada Wolfpack next week, Martin’s health will play a huge factor in the team’s overall performance.
Martin is not the only Sun Devil still sidelined with an injury, as redshirt junior guard Rob Edwards and junior forward Mickey Mitchell are both still out with their own respective ailments. Their injuries have forced players into unusual roles as a small handful of players are seeing their first extended action of the young season. All in all, though, ASU’s record remains unblemished as the team collects their 20th straight non-conference victory.
“It’s scary to think what we’ll look like when we’re all together,” redshirt sophomore forward Romello White said. “We just want to keep going, keep going on runs, keep doing what we’re doing. We’ve been doing good, we’ve been listening to coach, in practice, we go hard every day, we stick together and we’re going to keep that.”
Overshadowed by Cheatham’s electric performance, White quietly had his best game of the year collecting a team-leading 19 points on 9-10 shooting and 14 rebounds.
He was a force on the low block, starting the game shooting nine for nine with a dazzling display of hook shots and up-and-unders. White also shined defensively, holding 7’2 behemoth Trayvon Reed to only seven points and six rebounds a mere five days after Reed had dropped 23 points on the No. 18 Oregon Ducks.
“He’s one of the guys that will wear an opponent down because he’s so physical, yet he still has good mobility,” Hurley said. “He’s been a great teammate throughout this season. Even though some nights he may not put up great numbers he’s played great defense, he’s done all the little things. He’s really been a great guy to coach.”
December schedule for the Sun Devils is absolutely brutal, as the team's game against Nevada is followed up by a trip to SEC country to take on the Vanderbilt Commodores and Georgia Bulldogs, before ultimately ending the month with home bouts against the No. 2 Kansas Jayhawks and the Princeton Tigers.
Matching up against two top five teams is no easy task for any team, but especially one that has been bitten by the injury bug this early in the season. With the potential to shoot up the rankings in a similar fashion to last year’s team, each player understands the significance of the upcoming stretch of games.
“We’re so talented as a unit,” Cheatham said. “Once we put it all together, clean up the little mistakes and get our timing right with the little stuff I think it’s going to be a show.“