No. 20 Arizona State starts southern swing at Georgia
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No. 20 Arizona State and Georgia will meet for only the second time in history -- almost exactly 29 years after playing in a holiday tournament in Arizona -- in an intersectional clash Saturday.
It only seems as if it has been that long since either has played this season.
Arizona State (7-1) will return to the court for the first time since Dec. 7, when it suffered its first defeat of the season, a 72-66 loss to No. 6 Nevada in a neutral court game in Los Angeles as part of the Hall of Fame Classic.
Georgia (5-3) has not played since beating Texas Southern 92-75 on Dec. 3.
"The longest break I've been a part of," Bulldogs coach Tom Crean told reporters, adding that he was uncertain how his team would respond to the long layoff.
"You don't have any way to gauge it. But I think how intense and how energetic Arizona State plays, that will get everybody's attention real quick."
Arizona State entered the AP Top 25 two weeks ago at No. 20 and stayed there despite its loss to Nevada. The Sun Devils took an early 23-8 lead against the Wolf Pack that included an 11-0 run before Nevada recovered in the second half to pull away.
Physical freshman guard Luguentz Dort is averaging 22.0 points, 6.3 rebounds and two steals a game for the Sun Devils. He had 24 points against Nevada's veteran Martin Bros. backcourt.
Senior transfer forward Zylan Cheatham had 13 points and 10 rebounds against the Wolf Pack, both numbers just a tick above his season average. Forward Kimani Lawrence is second on the Sun Devils with a 14.5 scoring average.
Cheatham has one of 17 triple-doubles in Division I this season after getting 14 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists against Texas Southern, the teams' lone common opponent. Arizona State beat Texas Southern 83-71 on Dec. 1 before the Tigers traveled to Georgia.
Dort has made 16 3-pointers and Lawrence has made 14, although the Sun Devils are far less perimeter-oriented than they were last season. They are averaging 83.6 points a game.
"They are very balanced," said Crean, in his first season in Athens. "They are incredibly explosive. The balance comes because they can shoot threes. They are very quick and fast. The post up. They isolate well. They have very skilled guys and they know how to utilize them.
"We have some length on our team, but we can't replicate that length in practice. The bottom line is, how much better can we get. We know we have an outstanding coming in here that is a legit contender in the country."
Arizona State will play SEC program Vanderbilt in Nashville on Monday, and coach Bobby Hurley said he scheduled it that way with the Pac-12 season in mind. Pac-12 teams play two-game series, home or road, each week except for the week they play their natural rival.
"It's going to be a good way to rehearse for a conference road scenario," Hurley said. "That's how we've approached it, and we've had some good practices following our game last week. Just trying to simulate those conditions."
Six-foot-8 sophomore Forward Rayshaun Hammonds is averaging 14.4 points and 6.4 rebounds for the Bulldogs, and 6-11 sophomore Nicolas Claxton is averaging 12.5 points and 9.0 rebounds.
Guard Tyree Crump is averaging 10.6 points off the bench, and he had career highs with 25 points and five 3-pointers in the victory over Texas Southern. The Bulldogs tied a season high with 11 threes in that game.
"I don't think we're going to come close to overwhelming them from a size/ athleticism standpoint," Hurley said. "They (Bulldogs) are going to work hard and compete, so it's going to be a real good test for us."
Arizona State point guard Remy Martin had five points and four assists against Nevada after missing the previous two games with an ankle sprain that has bothered him most of the season. Martin is expected to play, as is reserve wing Rob Edwards, who has played only two games because of a back issue.
"As a coach you've got to protect the guys from themselves sometimes," Hurley said.
Updated December 14, 2018