Few plays can send a crowd into a frenzy quicker than a nasty dunk, and when it sparks a 34-20 run to end the game, fans may be liable to go absolutely bonkers.
That was precisely the case following redshirt senior forward Zylan Cheatham’s absolutely monstrous slam over Oregon's Kenny Wooten Saturday night, which helped drive ASU (13-5, 4-2) to an impressive 78-64 victory over the visiting Oregon Ducks (11-7, 2-3).
“Once I spun baseline I saw daylight,” Cheatham said. “I saw it was me and Kenny (Wooten), and it was either I go through his chest or go over him; I think I made the right decision.”
Saturday marked another outstanding outing for Cheatham who has scored above 10 points and collected at least five rebounds in each but one of the Sun Devils Pac-12 contests after his 17 point, 9 rebound performance against Oregon.
“Zylan (Cheatham), again in the second half, was a monster,” head coach Bobby Hurley said. “Just with everything, from his defense to his rebounding. He really didn’t have the best first half, but he really came to life in the second half.”
Freshman forward Taeshon Cherry had possibly his finest performance in the maroon and gold, connecting on a career-high five three-pointers in the win. His ability to play with a whole host of different lineups has made him a valuable contributor, and with nine threes over the last two games he may be the Sun Devils best option from beyond the arc.
“Since we recruited him, since I found out we were trying to get him here, I always knew what he was capable of,” Cheatham said. “I always knew he was a lockdown shooter, and when he’s in that zone and he’s got it going, you just got to find him and ride that wave because once he sees two or three go down, the next two or three that are really good chances of going in.”
ASU’s win was due in no small part to a 19-0 run midway through the second half during which the Sun Devils were able to turn a 54-50 deficit with 8:37 remaining into a 69-54 advantage in a matter of about four minutes.
The run had just as much to do with the explosive Sun Devil offense, which shot 7-8 over the stretch, as it did with the suffocating Sun Devil defense, which forced the Ducks into 0-7 shooting over the same stretch.
Sophomore guard Remy Martin also came up huge in the victory, dishing out a game-high eight assists to go along with his 11 points.
“I found myself needing to get my guys going, not just energy-wise but also through driving and kicking,” Martin said. “When I found myself doing that, it got the game going and I just do whatever I can for the team to win.”
This game marked the end of ASU's eight-game losing streak to the Ducks that stretched all the way back to 2014. Behind one of the strongest defensive outings of the year, the Sun Devils were able to hold the Ducks to a measly 33.3 shooting percentage from the field, including a 32.3 percent clip from three-point land.
Much of that had to do with the hounding defense of freshman guard Luguentz Dort who only notched 12 points on 4-10 shooting, but gave Oregon guard Payton Pritchard problems when it mattered most.
“(Dort) is relentless and he’s going to challenge the other guard, and we thought that was important for us,” Hurley said. “We didn’t want to allow Payton (Pritchard) to get wherever he wanted on the floor; he’s a very good guard and he’s an experienced guard, and he made some nice things happen in the first half, but Lu stepped up and really challenged him and made things as difficult as possible.”
Up next for the Sun Devils is a trip to Los Angeles where they will take on both the UCLA Bruins (10-8, 3-2) on Jan. 24 and the USC Trojans (10-8, 3-2) on Jan. 26. With ASU completing their first conference sweep of the young season, confidence is high as coach Hurley looks to nab his first Pac-12 road sweep as a coach at ASU.
“Oregon was on a roll beating USC handily and then winning at Arizona,” Hurley said. “So to know you’re playing a team that’s playing pretty well, and to do what we were able to do in the second half shows where we can take it if we focus on the right things.”