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ASU men's basketball secures bye with 83-74 victory over Washington State

The Sun Devils forgo round one of the Pac-12 Tournament with win

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ASU sophomore forward Taeshon Cherry (35) dunks the ball against Washington State on Saturday, March 7, 2020, at Desert Financial Arena in Tempe.

ASU men’s basketball won its final home contest of the season Saturday afternoon in an 83-74 victory over Washington State at Desert Financial Arena.

Junior guard Alonzo Verge Jr. led the Sun Devils with 20 points, seven rebounds and two steals.

Junior guard Remy Martin scored 18 points and dished six assists, and redshirt junior forward Romello White chipped in 10 points for ASU.

The victory secured a first-round bye for the Sun Devils in the upcoming Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Tournament at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

“It is a big advantage,” head coach Bobby Hurley said of the team’s tournament positioning. “It is really difficult to win four straight games. Everything played out so that we are in that position.”

The Sun Devils’ (20-11, 11-7 Pac-12) primary focus defensively was WSU (15-16, 6-12) sophomore forward CJ Elleby, who scored 27 points against ASU including the game-winner when the teams first met on Jan. 29.

“We just wanted to crowd (Elleby) as much as we could,” Hurley said. “If you are not disrupting his rhythm, he is going to comfortably make shots.”

While the defensive effort was strong and forced Elleby to miss his first six shots, ASU connected on just four of its first 16 shot attempts and fell behind early.

Both teams struggled with fouls early on, entering the bonus just under eight minutes into the first half.

Foul trouble affected Cougars freshman center Volodymyr Markovetskyy, who was effective early on, but committed three fouls and was forced to sit the remainder of the half.

It was with less pressure in the interior that the ASU offense began to get locked in midway through the half, notching a 17-2 run over less than a six-minute stretch to build a strong lead.

Leading the charge was Martin, who scored 10 points in the half including two 3-pointers.

Verge Jr. followed with seven points, making four Sun Devils who scored at least five points as the team headed into halftime with a 11-point advantage.

The Sun Devils maintained the lead in the second half thanks to consistent pressure on defense. ASU continued to hound Elleby and the Cougars connected on four out of 15 shots as a team to begin the second half.

The elite defensive effort led to easy buckets on the other side for Verge Jr., who paced the Sun Devils with 13 second-half points on 6-11 shooting.

“I always feel like I can do better,” Verge Jr. said. “In the first half, my shot was kind of flat, so I wanted to get it up. That was the main thing.”

ASU ran into trouble late when WSU notched a 21-4 run with around three minutes remaining to tie the game at 65 points each.

Each ensuing possession was crucial, and the Sun Devils came up clutch with four straight field goals to reclaim a multiple-possession lead.

The game then turned into a free-throw battle on both sides, with ASU holding on to claim its 11th conference victory of the season.

Elleby finished just 2-19 from the field and WSU ended up shooting 36.6% as a team in the loss.

With the regular season now complete, the Sun Devils will travel to Las Vegas to compete in the Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Tournament starting Wednesday.

“We are a connected unit, and we know how important it is,” redshirt senior guard Rob Edwards said. “It is win or go home, and we are ready.”

With the first-round bye, ASU's first contest of the tournament will tip off on Thursday at 8:30 p.m. PT.

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