By Ken Cross
Arizona State coach Bobby Hurley couldn’t have written the script any better. His Sun Devils, who were coming off an 82-70 victory over St. John’s at Staples Center, took an eye-popping 95-85 win over Kansas at Phog Allen Field House on Sunday afternoon. Suffice it to say, Arizona State has arrived as proven with it’s No. 5 national rating on Monday.
“No one really wins here,” Hurley said of one of the great cathedrals of basketball that is affectionately known as “The Phog,” “So you come in here and most of the time you’re not leaving real happy. I trust these guys with Kodi Justice and they really play for each other and they are fearless.”
Hurley was alluding to Tra Holder, who knocked down 29 points and was a menace to Kansas off the dribble in getting to the line 12 times while Shannon Evans and Remy Martin, who finished with 22 and 21, respectively.
Holder had recently torched Xavier with 40 points in a 102-86 win over the Musketeers in Las Vegas and Evans, who recorded his first 20-plus points game of the season, hit five triples as ASU was 14-of-28 from the arc. Martin’s 21 was a season high in his first nine games as he went 8-of-11 from the field.
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“They really stepped up to the challenge, playing against a great group (of players) that Kansas has and is a high-scoring team,” noted Hurley, “For Shannon and Tra and Remy, we just kept calling their numbers and kept giving them chances to try to make plays and that was the difference.”
Evans hit a layup with 15:01 remaining that started a 15-0 Sun Devils run that ended with a 65-52 lead some 4:27 later when Martin also scored on a layup. The quickness of the Arizona State guards also baited Kansas into turnovers as ASU scored 25 points on 16 turnovers for the game.
“I just remember us generating more stops,” remembered Hurley, “Our defense may not be perfect, I think we could look at it and find things that we need to improve on and get better at, but I think our energy was there enough. We could defeat teams on offense, you just keep scoring and these guys over here they could hit the three and they could drive the rim and are just complete players, all three of these guys and Kodi too.”
The character and experience of this team was revealed early in the game when Kansas jumped to a quick 15-2 lead some three and a half minutes in. Holder had eight points as Arizona State fought back immediately with a 12-3 run the cut the Jayhawks’ lead to 18-17 midway through the first half.
“In all of the games here that I have watched, they have really gotten out some great advantages in the first half, so we knew that they would take a big swing at us early in the game and see if they could knock us out and we really overcame that deficit,” explained Hurley, “Just want to get our feet under us in a game and give ourselves a chance to show what we are capable of doing.”