After high hopes for Las Vegas, ASU falls to Oregon in Pac-12 semis
LAS VEGAS - All Zylan Cheatham wanted was a timeout.
He yelled to heavens, hoping to hear a whistle as an acknowledgment. He jumped. He waved his hands, which had been plastered into a ‘T.’ Crickets.
Instead, five seconds later, Cheatham heard the buzzer.
“I’m a pretty vocal guy, my voice is pretty loud when I yell,” Cheatham said. “In my opinion, there’s really no way someone didn’t hear me calling a timeout.”
Originally, Cheatham was just looking for the ball. With 28 seconds left in a tie game, he was going to be the hero to send the Sun Devils on to the Pac-12 Tournament Final.
In its timeout seconds earlier, ASU (22-10) had planned to have Cheatham, who finished with 14 points and nine rebounds, take the ball down low. Instead, the Sun Devils were forced to adjust when Oregon denied the wing.
So Cheatham handed it off to Martin at the top of the key. ASU’s shifty point guard took three dribbles before Romello White ran to the arc to set a screen on Oregon guard Payton Pritchard. But, again, things fell apart.
“There was a screen and somebody had to pop out,” guard Luguentz Dort said after ASU’s 79-75 loss to Oregon (22-12). “Then, (Pritchard) kind of cheated on a screen.”
Kimani Lawrence agreed, Martin didn’t have many options but to throw up a contested look with the shot clock winding down. So, with Pritchard closing in from his left, Martin rose up and fired a fadeaway jumper toward the hoop.
The shot nicked the front rim, bobbling around amidst the chaos before falling into the hands of Dort, who quickly flung it up to Rob Edwards. Edwards, who hit three triples and finished with 15 points, stood more than 30 feet from the basket, a mere spectator to Cheatham’s cries for time.
But despite numerous claims from Sun Devils who said they heard it, there was no whistle. The Sun Devils marched on to overtime deflated. They fell behind early, needing a late Dort 3-point try, that just hit the back rim, to tie the game.
About 20 minutes after they exited the T-Mobile Arena floor for the final time, there was ASU. The Sun Devils lined their makeshift locker room in the bowels of the arena, each sitting on cushy chairs facing away from their locker.
Some scrolled through their phones. Others just sat there, staring at the ground, staring at the wall, staring at the media that just walked in. They sat silent thinking about what could have been, recalling every little detail of Friday’s game.
Cheatham was in the corner. Sporting a black beanie, he kept his head down. Like every other member of Arizona State’s team, he thinks the Sun Devils are in. But this was supposed to be their tournament to lose in a sense, a statement to shut up every bracketologist and fan fretting over the NCAA Tournament bubble.
“In my opinion, we should have won,” Cheatham said. “A lot of stuff didn’t go our way but we still found a way to be in that game. To lose in overtime in that fashion is devastating to us because we planned on winning this whole tournament.
“I don’t have anything to sugarcoat, I feel like this game was stolen from us and, in my opinion, I feel like that’s why everyone is so devastated.”
Whether it’s on the team plane or a film session before selection Sunday, Cheatham admitted that when the Oregon film comes on, he’s going to look at a moment when the Devils were up seven with eight minutes to go. With a stop and bucket, they could have gone up 10 or 11.
Instead, they “messed up a switch,” freeing up Oregon forward Paul White for a catch-and-shoot 3-pointer. From there, the Ducks clawed back before tying up the game with 1:34 remaining.
It capped off a chippy second half, which included 14 fouls from the Ducks and a dozen for ASU.
“It was a lot of bang-bang plays, a lot of calls that didn’t go our way,” Cheatham said. “Guys getting in the lane and making great moves and getting hit and we’re not getting rewarded for it. Those type of plays are momentum shifters. We go in, get hit, a guy falls and they get a fast-break the other way.”
Even Oregon coach Dana Altman admitted it was a physical game, prompting aggressiveness that may have even aided the Ducks. But when Cheatham and the Devils go back and watch the film, they’ll all be circling near the 18:00 mark in the first half.
That’s when Remy Martin says he strained his groin, which prompted a “60 to 75 percent” Martin, according to Bobby Hurley, to battle through the game. ASU trainer John Anderson took Martin back to the locker room to stretch him out and try and hit some of the pressure points of his groin.
From there, Martin went between the court and the exercise bike in the tunnel. When he was on the former, the energetic point guard, who nailed two 3-pointers in the second half and finished with 14 points, was hobbling, trying to not think about the pain.
Martin didn’t lie, the injury limited his style of play. He wasn’t able to run through Oregon’s press, which, in part, led to 14 ASU turnovers, or drive to the hoop as much as he wanted.
But for now, he’ll rest. And like the rest of ASU, wait to find out where the Sun Devils will be playing in the NCAA Tournament.
Wait, but doesn’t this loss hurt their chances?
“Absolutely not,” Hurley quipped.