DAYTON, OHIO — After routing the Nevada Wolf Pack 98-73 in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament in Dayton, Ohio, ASU now advances to the Round of 64 in Denver to take on Texas Christian University.
The Sun Devils chose one of the most opportunistic times to deliver one of its most thorough performances of the season, and junior guard DJ Horne led the way scoring 20 points on 7-10 shooting. Desmond Cambridge Jr., who after the game admitted he felt disrespected being one of the last four in, scored 17 points and added six assists.
"It was a complete performance for us, and you want to be playing this way at this time of year," said ASU head coach Bobby Hurley. "That's what it's all about."
A balanced attack from tipoff helped ASU jump on the Wolf Pack and gain an early advantage. Behind jumpers from guards Cambridge Jr. and Horne, ASU's offense stretched its lead to 10 early amid a 13-0 run. The Sun Devils forced five Wolf Pack turnovers in the first four minutes of the contest.
Midway into the half, Nevada was shooting the ball well from the field as the team knocked down five early 3-pointers. But at that point, ASU had already doubled Nevada's shot attempts, stealing possessions and scoring 14 points off turnovers.
Nevada's 3-point shooting in the first half was the difference between the Wolf Pack hovering around a 10-point deficit or being run off the floor immediately. Nevada made six 3-pointers at the half.
"When we get off to starts like that, I feel like we are pretty tough to beat," Horne said.
Sophomore forward Jamiya Neal's influence on the Sun Devils' success at the end of the season cannot be understated. Neal impacted multiple games in the Pac-12 tournament, stepping in as an extra facilitator for ASU while freshman guard Austin Nunez sat out due to concussion protocol.
Neal continued that impact in the first half by entering the game from the second unit and scoring 10 points on 4-4 shooting to stretch ASU's lead.
Horne and Neal hung 21 points on 8-9 shooting in the first half on the Wolf Packs' defense, delivering a blow Nevada would not recover from.
"It means everything," Horne said about his performance. "Especially for it to be my first NCAA Tournament, to go out there and play a game like that. It's definitely going to have a lasting memory."
Around the eight-minute mark, Nevada's freshman guard Trey Pettigrew knocked down a floater, which gave Nevada its first basket that wasn't a 3-pointer and trimmed ASU's lead to 34-22. Still, the Wolf Pack couldn't find consistent offense as ASU followed up on a 14-0 run over the next four minutes, extending its lead to 24 points at 48-22.
ASU led 53-26 in its highest-scoring half of the season behind 8-14 3-point shooting and 67% from the field. Despite a barrage of 3-point makes, the Wolf Pack was shooting 33% at halftime.
The second half opened with a two-minute scoring drought from ASU. Nevada's head coach Steve Alford tried to add to it by ramping up the pressure, ordering a full-court press. That helped stretch the drought to five minutes, but the Wolfpack couldn't capitalize, and ASU answered with a 6-0 run.
Nevada's junior center Will Baker put together a solid second half for the Wolf Pack, scoring 14 points, and Nevada continued to knock down shots from the perimeter. Senior guard Jarod Lucas hit two 3-pointers in the second half.
By the six-minute mark in the second half, Nevada had gone 4-6 from 3-point range, bringing its total to 10 made threes. But it did little to stop the bleeding as ASU wouldn't allow the deficit to be trimmed too significantly.
Senior guard Luther Muhammad supplied a scoring boost for ASU by coming off the bench and making his money in the mid-range. Muhammed scored 10 points in the second half, leading ASU.
"You would never imagine that they could perform this well on offense," Hurley said about the squads' offensive explosion. "I mean, we scored the most points we've scored all season tonight. But it was the quality of play and the whole team doing it; I can't say I put a guy in the game that did not contribute tonight."
ASU finished the opening round of the NCAA Tournament against Nevada, dominating both sides of the ball, finishing the contest by shooting 63% from the field and 52% from the 3-point range.
On Friday in Denver, ASU will meet TCU in the Round of 64 with a chance to advance to its furthest position in the NCAA Tournament under Hurley. Tip off is 7:05 p.m. MST at Ball Arena.
Edited by Piper Hansen.
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