(Photo: Ryan Clarke/WCSN)
LAWRENCE, Kan. — The Sun Devils have arrived.
No. 16 ASU men’s basketball, fueled by the play of its fiery backcourt, upset No. 2 Kansas 95-85 at Allen Fieldhouse on Sunday. With the win, the Sun Devils are 9-0 and assert themselves as one of the top teams in the country.
This is just the 11th time in the Bill Self era that the Jayhawks have lost at home.
“No one really wins here. You come in here and most of the time you’re not leaving real happy,” ASU head coach Bobby Hurley said. “I trust these guys. They play for each other, they’re fearless and they really stepped up to the challenge.”
ASU stuck around with KU in the first half despite an early 15-2 deficit and myriad struggles defending the three-point line. The Sun Devils seemed to have an answer for every run by the Jayhawks, relying on the outside shot to keep themselves in it.
The backside defense was also particularly porous in the first half. Kansas was able to find success on lob dunks and backdoor passes that showcased its superior athleticism. The Sun Devils’ dynamic offense allowed them to weather the storm.
In the second half, ASU became the storm.
Utilizing a four-guard lineup for a significant stretch, the Sun Devils locked down the Jayhawks and rattled off a 15-0 run to take control of the game. Remy Martin was the catalyst on both ends with his tenacious defense and deft touch around the rim.
Martin finished with 21 points on 8-of-11 shooting. Shannon Evans was on fire from beyond the arc down the stretch and finished with 22 points. Tra Holder played all 40 minutes and led the way with 29 points.
Guard U? U better believe it.
“They can hit the three, they can drive to the rim…just complete players,” Hurley said. “It makes my job a lot easier having these guys between the lines.”
The play of Martin, just a freshman, was superb given the circumstances. He and the other Sun Devil guards remained poised despite the hostile environment they faced. That can be attributed to the work they’ve put in under Hurley’s tutelage.
Hurley has taken a group that won 15 games last season and refurbished it, both through personnel changes and system adjustment, into one of the most dangerous teams in the country. The play of the guards has been outstanding, but the addition of presences like Romello White and De’Quon Lake down low has been huge.
ASU plays fast, hard and smart. Sunday was a perfect example of the Sun Devils reflecting the mindset of their head coach and embracing his philosophy. A win over Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse isn’t just a significant moment in their season — it’s a program-defining victory that could represent the beginning of something special.
For now, though, ASU can immerse itself in the euphoria of upsetting one of the top programs in the country on the road.
“I feel like we’re not really thinking about the future too much,” Evans said. “We’ve got Vanderbilt coming up next Sunday. If you start thinking about March and things like that, you lose times like this.
“Our coaches, our teammates, we’re just having a great time doing what we love to do.”