TEMPE — Pacific coach Damon Stoudamire came out of his locker room after losing to Arizona State 104-65 and just told it was like it was: The Sun Devils, now 12-0, are good.
The former Arizona Wildcat All-American knows good when he sees it.
“To me, it’s not that they make shots but that that they put pressure on you downhill,” said Stoudamire, now in his second year at Pacific. “They are downhill drivers. They put a lot of pressure on you. Whether they make or miss a lot of shots – sometimes you make them and sometimes you miss them but the one thing is they put pressure.”
Such was the case with for the Tigers in playing ASU, Arizona’s next opponent in what should be an epic game of contrasting styles. Arizona can go small but is bigger while Arizona State is small and can play, um, a bit taller.
“Those two bigs won’t get the credit they deserve,” Stoudamire said De’Quon Lake and Romello White. “White does a good job …
“When you have guards who can make plays you make them look good.”
Asked if this reminded him of the Arizona Final Four team – one he was on and a key with Khalid Reeves and Reggie Geary – he said, not really because Geary was more of a defender than a scorer.
“Those dudes can really score,” he said.
It’s like a quasi-organized fire sale or a controlled chaos. I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen this type of frenzy outside of maybe UNLV in the late 1980s and early 1990s. It’s just different.
And what you see in person is totally different than what you see on TV. The Sun Devils are quicker and deceptively athletic. Figure ASU had 10 blocks, seven coming from De’Quon Lake. And he’s not even one of the featured guys.
“The TV doesn’t do them justice,” Stoudamire said.
As Stoudamire said, “they have you on your heels the whole time.”
Tra Holder, Shannon Evans II and Remy Martin play as though their hair is on fire. They are like pesky fire ants that bother, poke and needle you to death. Oh, then come the 3-pointers that are more than 4 feet from beyond the arc.
Evans hit five of 11.
Holder hit 2 of 4.
Martin hit 1 of 2.
And Kodi Justice hit 3 of 8.
In all, they went 12 for 26 from the 3-point line. It’s like death from 1,000 eye pokes.
They hit 36-67 shots and play like they have a plane to catch yet knowing the plane will be waiting.
“You have Holder, then Martin and Martin coming off the bench, it makes it hard,” Stoudamire said. “They put so much pressure.”
Things could change in a couple of games, Stoudamire said, given the step up in talent, but for him “I don’t have any margin for error. It’s not as big as some of the other teams they will play.”
Perhaps more defining from Stoudamire’s perspective is that he is seeing a team that “is tired of losing.”
“They were like Pacific (in the past),” he said. “They were a laughing stock and said Hurley is over his head. I see a team that’s tired of losing. I see it. I’ve been in this arena enough times to know what the energy was in this gym and it’s different.”
Maybe perhaps the best ASU team in a long time? That may be up for debate with a long season ahead, but Stoudamire said maybe not since the mid-1990s when players like Stevin Smith, Ron Riley and Isaac Burton and Mario Bennett played has ASU been this good.
“They could really score the ball,” Stoudamire said. “They were a really good team.”
Hurley said it’s by far the most “cohesive, together group” he’s ever coached.
“It’s a progression with the seniors…again, we fought through a lot of hard times over the last two years,” Hurley said. “The determination that Kodi, Tra and Shannon have and how they were attacking the workouts in the summer and pre-season and our foreign trip.
“We haven’t lost a game in a while… It’s their commitment and their desire to be a great team and have a great season and to go out as winners and that filters down.”
Now, on to Arizona on Dec. 30 where Deandre Ayton, Allonzo Trier and Rawle Alkins await.
“It’s a new season for everybody…we’re all 0-0 and we move on to the next phase,” Hurley said. “I hope everyone wants to go there. I hope every fan from Arizona and Arizona State is trying to get into that building.”