Yesterday’s game was over, but the Arizona State basketball fans weren’t ready to leave. Most of them had stormed the court when the final buzzer sounded.
The scoreboard in Wells Fargo Arena was still lit, showing that their Sun Devils had just stunned the top-ranked team in the nation. And coach Bobby Hurley was in the locker room getting a celebratory shower of water from his happy players.
Most of the 14,592 fans on hand were just soaking up the moment. No. 18 ASU knocked off undefeated No. 1 Kansas, 80-76, providing the fourth-year head coach with a signature win that will define the season for years to come, and provide some legitimacy to what the former Duke and NBA player is accomplishing with a program that has been mired in mediocrity for some time.
ASU (9-2) has become a recurring nightmare for Kansas coach, Bill Self. Hurley’s Sun Devil team last year also beat the Jayhawks at a time when they were ranked No. 2 in the nation. To pull that off a second time is beyond impressive.
This isn’t ASU’s first win this season against a ranked opponent. The Devils beat No. 15 Mississippi, and had an 18-point lead against No. 6 Nevada before losing that game by a couple of treys.
But this game was different. ASU had to chase Kansas for the first 38 minutes of the game, unable to move into the lead until the game clock showed just 2:23 left to play, when Rob Edwards found the bottom of the net from behind the arc. It was Edwards again down the stretch. The redshirt junior guard from Detroit provided the final two points via free throws after Remy Martin, his sophomore partner in the back court, put the Devils two points ahead with a jumper at the :59 mark.
Last year’s victory over Kansas took a different course. ASU got off to a slow start and had to dig itself out of a 15-2 hole early, and then used a 15-0 second-half run to get the job done. Martin scored 21 points in that 95-85 win and 10 points last night.
This time, Kansas drew first blood again, using a pair of three-pointers to jump-start its offense. But the Devils recovered quickly and hung in there from start to finish, never letting the win get out of reach.
“I think we battled as hard as we could every possession,” Hurley said after the game. “We went all in, they went all in. They (ASU players) gave everything they had tonight.”
They spread the work load around last night, as they have all season. Edwards led the ASU scoring with 15 points, while Zylan Cheatham and Luguentz Dort each added 13. Cheatham, a redshirt senior, is a local favorite, from South Mountain High School in Phoenix.
Coach Self singled out the play of Edwards. “We did a really poor job of getting Edwards (late in the game),” he admitted after the game. “I thought he was terrific. I mean, he was really the difference in the game because when we had control of the game, he basically single-handedly brought them back.”
And the defense stepped up at the right time, keeping Kansas from a field goal over the last five minutes and forcing two turnovers down the stretch, one of which came in the final seconds when the Jayhawks could have tied the game at 78.
“This was just a huge moment for our basketball program,” Hurley pointed out. “I remember when I started my first couple of games here, to see what it is like now is just unreal.”
The attendance was the third-largest in program history. It was as if those who showed up knew something big was going to happen.
But this win wasn’t big. It was HUGE.