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Perez powers ASU to victory over Sam Houston State

The Sun Devils' offense fired on all cylinders as graduate transfer guard Jose Perez scored a team-leading 24 points

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ASU graduate student guard Jose Perez (12) goes up for a jump shot at Desert Financial Arena, on Thursday, Nov. 17, 2023, in Tempe. ASU won 71-69.

Graduate transfer guard Jose Perez said he’s still knocking off the rust while dropping 24 points in ASU’s dominant win over Sam Houston State University. Perez led the Sun Devils to a 78-61 win against the Bearkats.

The Sun Devils looked good right out of the gate for the first time this season, led by a run of six straight points by Perez.

ASU then swapped baskets with Sam Houston State until the team eventually led by 10 midway through the first half. Head coach Bobby Hurley seemed to take advantage of the double-digit lead to see what freshman guard Braelon Green and freshman forward Akil Watson could do.

“If we didn't have the injuries we had and we weren't still waiting on others, non-injury related news relative to a key player for us,” Hurley said. “Who knows if we would see what we're able to see now and it's great that they're having a really positive impact on what we're doing.”

Green made his mark by slamming home a dunk to the delight of the ASU student section. He followed up the highlight play with a steal and perfectly placed pass to set up junior guard Jamiya Neal for a fastbreak layup.

Watson’s night was more of a mixed bag. He made the most of his 6-foot-9-inch frame to block a midrange shot but turned the ball over on ASU’s next possession. The Bearkats scored on the next possession, and the ball was back in the Sun Devils’ court, but Watson committed another turnover by stepping out of bounds. 

Sam Houston State attempted to slow down ASU with full court presses. The Sun Devils have been on the other end of most presses this season and used them effectively to disrupt offenses. The Bearkats' efforts, however, were fruitless as the Sun Devils only coughed up six turnovers and ended the half up 13 points.

ASU looked like a different team going into the locker room. The Sun Devils' typically sluggish offense was finally clicking, shooting 48% from the floor. Perez tallied 16 points with his effective midrange shot and pushing into the paint for high-percentage shots.

The second half started just like the first. The Sun Devils quickly increased their lead to 19 with a mix of production from the forwards and baskets by Neal. ASU’s scoring run was thanks in part to Sam Houston State going 12.5% from the field in the first five minutes of the half.

Perez wasn’t called on early in the half but came alive late to tally a total 24 points on the night. 

“It's just my natural game, that's a unique game,” Perez said. “I got it from a New York play style. My teammates just trust me to make the right plays.” 

The Sun Devils’ lead never dipped below 17 points for the rest of the half. In the end, ASU beat Sam Houston 78-61 in an offensive revival. 

Hurley’s team walked away with a win despite missing sophomore center Shawn Phillips Jr. and senior forward Zane Meeks down low. The Sun Devils played with a smaller group but weren’t outrebounded, thanks to guards playing above their height to grab 23 of their 42 rebounds. 

“So we knew that we had to really help Bryant Selebangue and those guys out in the paint,” Neal said. “So us going to get I think Perez had eight rebounds and I had eight and Frankie had seven, that’s big. We just got to continue to do that every night.”

ASU dominated Sam Houston State, but the win wasn’t enough to end the team's woes. Neal said the team realizes they’re not playing great but that the season’s long for a reason. He believes the team will resolve its issues by the time it really matters in March. 

The Sun Devils have played well enough to beat mid-major teams, but they haven’t beaten any solid programs ranked in the top 100 of KenPom. ASU has a crack at two top-100 teams to end a three-game homestand. 

Edited by Alfred Smith III, Jasmine Kabiri and Shane Brennan

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