TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — Arizona State’s Pac-12 season has been filled with games decided by single digits, many going all the way down to the wire.
The Sun Devils finally got a blowout and, boy, did it feel good.
Revving up its highlight-reel, crowd-pleasing offense, Arizona State ran away from California with a huge second half to beat the Bears 84-53 Thursday night.
“It felt great to just go out there and be ourselves,” said Arizona State’s Remi Martin, who had at least three no-look passes among his six assists. “That’s the type of basketball Sun Devil basketball plays. We go out there and we play freely and we just make plays.”
In Arizona State’s first 16 Pac-12 games, 14 were decided by single digits, matching Oregon in 2006-07 for most in the past 22 years.
The Sun Devils (20-9, 8-9 Pac-12) gradually built a 10-point lead by halftime, giving the struggling Bears hope of mounting a comeback. Arizona State squashed it early in the second half, reeling off series of dunks and layups to end a three-game losing streak.
Romello White had 13 points and 11 rebounds for Arizona State. Shannon Evans II added 14 points and Tra Holder 13.
“It was good to get back to playing freely,” Arizona State coach Bobby Hurley said. “Some of the plays in the second half were who we are and who we’ve been most of the year.”
Cal had no answer for Arizona State at either end.
The Sun Devils picked their way through Cal’s defense, shooting 51 percent and making 15 of 27 shots in the second half. The Bears stuck to the perimeter on offense most of the night and it did not turn out well.
Cal (8-22, 2-15) missed all of its 18 shots from the 3-point arc and set a dubious record, notching the most losses in the 111 seasons as a program.
Don Coleman had 16 points to lead the Bears, who had 17 turnovers and just six assists.
“We didn’t really get any penetration,” said Cal coach Wyking Jones. “I felt like everything we did was perimeter based. The times we did get into the lane, it just didn’t feel like we were able to capitalize.”
Arizona State still has a solid NCAA Tournament resume thanks to a strong nonconference season. But the margin for error has slimmed up over the past two weeks with losses to No. 19 Arizona, Oregon and Oregon State.
The Sun Devils certainly couldn’t afford a loss to the struggling Bears, who have the Pac-12’s worst offense and defense.
Arizona State won the first meeting against Cal 81-73 in Berkeley behind a 41-point night by its bench.
The Bears struggled offensively early in the rematch, hit a hot stretch midway through and struggled again to close the first half. Cal missed all 10 of its 3-point shots and <a target=”—blank” href=”https://twitter.com/SunDevilHoops/status/969403028636819457″>Arizona State led</a> 39-29 at halftime.
Arizona State got the <a target=”—blank” href=”https://twitter.com/SunDevilHoops/status/969412491817005059″>rout rolling</a> early second half, making six of its first nine shots to stretch the lead to 51-33. Cal missed four of its first six shots with turnovers in that stretch.
The Sun Devils kept on the gas, pushing the lead to 70-49 on a series a <a target=”—blank” href=”https://twitter.com/SunDevilHoops/status/969420241229852678″>highlight-reel layups</a> .
“Obviously, they’re at home, they’re in their comfort zone and once they kind of got it going, it was an uphill battle for us,” Jones said.
Cal’s first season under Jones has been historically ugly and the Bears didn’t stand much of a chance when the Sun Devils revved up. The Bears moved a step closer to being the No. 12 seed in next week’s Pac-12 tournament
Arizona State dominated at both ends to win a game it couldn’t afford to lose, pushing the Sun Devils further away from the NCAA Tournament bubble.
Cal is the Pac-12’s worst-shooting team from 3-point range, averaging 30 percent from the arc on the season. The 0-fer against Arizona State wasn’t not the Bears’ first of the season, either. Cal went 0 for 8 in a loss to Portland State on Dec. 21.
The Bears also had a huge discrepancy in free throws, going 11 for 17 while Arizona State was 28 for 37.
“We just weren’t aggressive enough to get to the free throw line and they were,” Jones said.
Cal plays at No. 19 Arizona on Saturday.
Arizona State hosts Stanford Saturday.
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