Washington State’s young players were plucky in many of the game’s important moments, but it was a fourth-year senior point guard from Arizona State who came up with the biggest play in the most crucial moment of a 77-74 overtime victory for the Sun Devils against the Cougars.
WSU was on the precipice of its third double-overtime game this season when Remy Martin caught an inbound pass with 10 seconds to play, picked up a screen from Jalen Graham and stepped back before hoisting a 30-foot 3-point shot to give the Sun Devils a three-point lead with less than one second left.
Jaz Kunc heaved a three-quarters court shot with .4 seconds on the clock, but it clanged off the back of the rim, allowing the Sun Devils to pick up their third consecutive victory while handing the Cougars their second straight loss.
With Isaac Bonton unavailable for the fourth time in five games, and Noah Williams fouling out with less than a minute left in regulation, a young, inexperienced WSU team with one junior, two sophomores and two freshmen played the majority of the overtime minutes and kept ASU within striking distance until Martin sealed it before the buzzer.
Cougars coach Kyle Smith lamented the defense played on the final shot, as guard Ryan Rapp slipped under the screen set by Graham, allowing Martin to get off a clean albeit deep look at the basket.
“We thought they’d have something drawn up man, or we thought they were just going to flatten it out with Remy with 10 seconds to go,” Smith said. “We really wanted to make someone else beat us and I don’t know, just miscommunication or something. (Rapp) just got on his heels or something. You can’t get on your heels against that guy, he’ll make you pay.”
The Cougars (14-12, 7-12) will line up against the Sun Devils (10-11, 7-8) for the second time in three days Monday. Tipoff is set for noon in Tempe and the game will air on the Pac-12 Networks.
Bonton, WSU’s leader in points and assists, returned to the court Thursday against Arizona after missing three consecutive games with ankle sprains, but Smith indicated the Cougars probably brought their senior point guard back before he was ready and subsequently held him out against the Sun Devils.
In the three prior games without Bonton, it was Williams who stepped up to lead WSU’s offense, pouring in 72 points in wins over Stanford and California. But the sophomore guard was called for two blocking fouls in the second half, disqualifying him with 43 seconds to play in regulation.
Even without Bonton, their top scorer, and Williams, the team’s best defender, the Cougars were gritty in the final minute and freshman Dishon Jackson came up with a highlight-reel block with seven seconds left in regulation to force overtime. When ASU’s Kimani Lawrence caught an inside pass from Martin, the Sun Devil forward went up to dunk, but Jackson covered 12 feet in three steps and pinned the ball off the backboard.
“Big time, big time play,” Smith said. “We didn’t have any timeouts – I hope we didn’t, I’m pretty sure we didn’t – and I thought we’d get a good look at it and a chance to win that thing. Didn’t work out that way.”
Despite an inconsistent night shooting the ball, Martin finished with 23 points, scoring 20-plus for the eighth consecutive game. Graham played through foul trouble to finish with 11 points, 12 rebounds and four blocked shots for the Sun Devils, who were missing freshmen starters Josh Christopher and Marcus Bagley. Alonzo Verge Jr. had nine points, six rebounds and nine assists for ASU.
Kunc scored a career-high 15 points for the Cougars and had eight rebounds. Williams matched his teammate with 15 points before fouling out. TJ Bamba, who’s 5 of 5 from 3-point range on the Arizona trip, had 14 points and Jackson had 13 to go with nine rebounds.
By beating ASU on Monday, WSU would secure a winning record regardless of what happens in the upcoming Pac-12 Tournament. Doing that begins with limiting Saturday’s hero: Martin.
“We mixed it up a lot on him with man and zone,” Smith said. “We’re short-handed on the perimeter with our depth, so we had to be creative and it’s a short turnaround and he’s a heckuva player. … He’s in a groove, so he’s pretty confident right now.”
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