ASU men's basketball escaped with a narrow 71-70 victory over GCU in Phoenix Sunday off of a go-ahead three-pointer from senior guard Remy Martin in the first meeting between the schools since 1980.
After back-to-back three-pointers from GCU sophomore guard Jovan Blacksher Jr. and senior center Alessandro Lever gave the team a two-point lead with 30 seconds left, ASU head coach Bobby Hurley said he had to draw up a play for Martin, “especially (because) of the way he was playing in the second half.”
Coming out of the timeout, senior guard Alonzo Verge Jr. drove baseline and found an open Martin in the opposite corner for the game-winning shot. Hurley said Martin is “wired” for those late-game situations.
“He wants those moments,” Hurley said. “There are certain guys who thrive in those moments and other guys who, for whatever reason, don’t handle them as well. But he’s proven over and over again that he’s that type of guy.”
The game went back-and-forth from start to finish. However, the first half was tough on both teams offensively as both defenses were extremely effective. ASU and GCU combined for 2-16 shooting from deep in the period, and ASU held Lever, GCU’s leading scorer, to just four first-half points.
After only scoring eight first-half points, Martin erupted for 23 second-half points. Although Martin had a great second half, Hurley said he “would like to get (Martin) more connected to the game sooner.”
“I thought he might’ve passed up some things a little bit earlier in the game,” Hurley said. “(I’m) just trying to continue to talk to him about being a guy that can take over throughout the whole game.”
After giving up 11 offensive rebounds and 17 second-chance points in their last game versus SDSU, Hurley said he and his team specifically game planned for GCU’s big men by having multiple defenders swarm them when they got the ball.
“Just having more guys that are closer to having a chance at getting a rebound is going to increase your chances a little bit,” Hurley said. “I thought we were a little more efficient in that category today.”
Hurley’s team took pride in their rebounding Sunday, and it showed, only allowing four offensive rebounds and seven second-chance points.
This was ASU’s first game this year playing in front of fans, as GCU let in 325 of their students to make up their student section, the “Havocs,” alongside cardboard cutouts.
Martin specifically noted that although he didn’t think the fans changed how he played the game, he said it “upped the (team’s energy) level a little bit.”
“It was just fun. It made me feel like college basketball was really back,” Martin said. “That’s just the fun of college basketball, the atmosphere. It just brings a whole bunch of energy and I love it, but our team did a great job handling it and we got the win, and that’s all that matters.”
ASU will take on the University of Texas at El Paso next on Dec. 16 at 7 p.m. MST in Tempe.
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