Redshirt junior guard Rob Edwards took a pull-up 3-pointer. Edwards missed, but he grabbed a Princeton turnover and passed the ball out to an open sophomore guard Remy Martin, who shot another 3-pointer. Martin missed, but freshman guard Luguentz Dort soared up to snatch the ball out from the air and attempted a final potential game-winning shot.
As the buzzer sounded, Dort fell near mid court and put his hands over his face. Dort missed his fall-away shot near the basket, and ASU lost in its non-conference finale, 67-66 against Princeton just a week after it upset then-No. 1 Kansas in the same building.
In the postgame interview session, redshirt senior forward Zylan Cheatham sat alone, answering questions and seemingly pondering what went wrong.
“It definitely hurts,” Cheatham said. “Basketball, it humbles you really quick. You go from an all-time high to, safe to say, an all-time low. But it is a process. You have to stay mature about it.”
ASU coach Bobby Hurley put much of the blame on himself, but he said his team has no excuses for this lull after Christmas because Princeton went through it as well.
As he praised Princeton, Hurley also said he and his players must do a better job.
“There are no positives to this at all really that I can think of at the moment,” Hurley said. “Just with the kind of non-conference that we had and the level of wins that we had, this is a step back. But, if we are going to play like this, then a resume doesn’t really mean a whole lot. You have to be ready to take care of business and play at a higher level, if you want to compete… You can’t be one team against the No. 1 team in the country and then play this way.”
Another slow start and an inability to finish at the basket plagued No. 17 ASU (9-3) as it shot only 32 percent from the field.
Cheatham, who finished with a season-low four points, nine rebounds and four assists, said he doesn’t believe this lost was a “hangover” from the Kansas win. He just thinks the team has to play better and with more confidence.
“I don’t think we played our best versus Kansas, but we were able to find a way to pull out a win,” Cheatham said. “(Today) we definitely didn’t play well at all, but the tables have turned, and sometimes the ball just doesn’t bounce your way. … (But) we are not going to beat any good or decent team shooting that way from the field.”
Other than redshirt sophomore forward Romello White, the Sun Devils struggled extensively on offense in the first half. White brought energy early with 13 points and 10 rebounds, including five offense, at halftime, but foul trouble hurt his cause in the second half as he finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds.
ASU as a team played with more energy after halftime, sparking scoring runs and a few leads, including a 61-57 advantage late. However, Princeton weathered every run with big-time shots from sophomore forward Jerome Desrosiers and senior guard Devin Cannady, who finished with a game-high 21 points.
Princeton (7-5) also contained Sun Devil drives to the basket and ASU players couldn’t finished at the basket, which caused frustration throughout the game. Hurley said his team digs itself holes offensively when it doesn’t convert, causing too much reliance on its defense.
After junior center Richmond Aririguzoh made free throws to give Princeton a 67-66 lead with 24.8 seconds left, Hurley called a timeout. With how the game went, Hurley said he wanted either Edwards, who finished with 11 points, or Martin, who finished with 19, to take the final shot.
Hurley received both options as the final seconds were a scramble, but each attempt fell short, and then Dort missed his chance. Despite his strong start in college basketball, the freshman guard has struggled recently, and Saturday he shot 1-of-8 from the field and finished with six points, six rebounds and two assists.
However, with his scoring talent, ability to make plays and defensive prowess, Hurley has confidence in his Canadian freshman.
“He is a freshman, and he has been so good early,” Hurley said. “I know that he will continue to find his best game here as we get into league play.”
Although he agreed that this loss and performance will be a wake-up call, Cheatham also admitted this wasn’t the first wake-up call the team has faced this season, mentioning the 16-point loss at Vanderbilt.
Cheatham said he will watch film and probably feel bad for a day, but he said he realizes this is a long season and he, nonetheless, will stay motivated and isn’t discouraged as ASU heads into Pac-12 play against Utah and Colorado next weekend in Tempe.
“You just have to bounce back,” Cheatham said. “That is the biggest thing.”