Just a few hours before ASU’s highly anticipated matchup against the Arizona Wildcats on Thursday, coach Bobby Hurley gathered his team for a pregame pep-talk. Clearly bothered by his winless record against the rivals from Tucson, Hurley let his team in on a little secret.
The suffering ends now.
The 47-year-old Hurley preceded to sprint up and down the court 92 times, one for each point the Sun Devils had lost by in Hurley’s three-year tenure at ASU. As the Sun Devils cheered on their coach from the sidelines, the message he was trying to instill quickly became crystal clear.
Tonight was much bigger than basketball.
“I’m really proud of the team and what they brought to this game, and how they fought through everything,” Hurley said. “I just liked how our offense led us in this game. Guys stepped up, so there’s a lot to feel good about tonight.”
One of those guys was sophomore guard Remy Martin, who poured in 31 points to go with eight assists in the win. His trademark energy and tenacity were in full force Thursday night, as he hit a number of clutch baskets en route to his career high in points.
“He was fantastic,” Hurley said about his star guard. “He was doing a really good job of not going too fast in ball screens, doing a nice job of maintaining his handle, letting the play develop, and then figuring out what the right read was. He made some really good passes in tight quarters, bounce passes, quick passes. He was spectacular tonight.”
Only a performance of Martin’s caliber could outshine the ridiculous stat line posted by redshirt senior Zylan Cheatham, who notched 11 points and grabbed an awe-inspiring 22 rebounds in the victory. It was incredibly Cheatham’s second 20+ rebound performance in his last three games, and marks the fifth time in his last six games the redshirt senior has collected more than 12 rebounds.
“I’m just attacking the glass,” Cheatham said. “In the first half they had eight or nine offensive rebounds, so that was something that we talked about at halftime as something we knew we had to limit. I knew keeping them off the glass was definitely going to benefit us, so it’s just whatever the team needs, that’s what I try to do.”
Cheatham’s presence on both ends of the floor was absolutely critical in the win, as his defensive versatility was vital in the Sun Devils' second-half comeback.
Throughout the game, Arizona guard Justin Coleman was creating easy buckets for his teammates through his ability to get to the rim at will. Hurley and associate head coach Rashon Burno countered by switching up the defensive assignments, opting for the 6’8 Cheatham to match up with the 5’10 Coleman.
The move almost instantly paid off, as Cheatham’s long arms and quick feet negated a lot of Coleman’s scoring opportunities and instead forced the ball out of his hands.
“I knew we needed a stop,” Cheatham said. “I knew that if I could slow him down and keep him out of the paint, we wouldn’t have to help as much and it would limit the number of catch and shoots that they were getting. I took it personally and tried to do my best with it.”
With the win tonight, ASU snapped a six-game losing streak to the rival Wildcats and secured Hurley’s first win over the rivals as the coach at ASU. The magnitude of a moment like this was not lost on any of the players, many of whom who have watched the program rise from the state’s little brother to a force within the conference.
“For me personally, growing up here and seeing the dominance that U of A has had over our program, to come back home and in my first ever Territorial game to come out victorious it means a lot to me,” Cheatham said. “Considering all the stuff I’ve witnessed this program go through, all that Hurley’s went through, it just means the world to me to help him get one.”
With emotions riding high, the Sun Devils must now wait longer than usual to play their next game as they host the Washington State Cougars next Thursday, Feb. 7 at 6:00 p.m MST. After running up and down the court 92 times on Thursday, coach Hurley will certainly appreciate the rest.