In any conference and in any rivalry there are benchmark victories. When Coach K got to Duke, UNC was the standard and you had to go through the Tar Heels to become great in the ACC. After Duke’s rise, it became Duke. Now it’s Duke and Virginia that set the standard for ACC regular-season competition (Tony Bennett has not yet proven his system in the post-season).
In the PAC-12, Arizona has been the standard since 1986. Other teams have had nice runs for a few years, but the Wildcats have been the dominant team in PAC-12 basketball for close to 35 years.
In his four years at Arizona State, legendary Duke point guard Bobby Hurley has turned the Sun Devils into a team you have to take seriously and last season got them to the NCAA Tournament for the first time.
He’s made a huge difference there but what he hasn’t done is to take the measure of Arizona.
Until Thursday night.
It took overtime but the Sun Devils knocked off the Wildcats 95-88 in overtime.
Hurley put a lot of his own stamp on the game.
He changed the team’s normal routine and rather than just watching film, he took his team on the court and had his team read the scores to the games he’s coached (and lost) to Arizona. Then, for all 79 points that Arizona has outscored his team by, he ran the length of the court.
He did this 79 times and his team went wild and gave him a tremendous performance Thursday evening.
Remy Martin had 31 points and 6-8 Zylan Cheatham had 22 rebounds.
To top off the very Hurley-esque performance, the coach had this happen: he was coaching his team when he took an accidental ball to the face which knocked him down in front of the scorer’s table - and immediately bounced up and starting working the ref as if it was his fault.
You have to give him credit for first being able to run that hard at 47 and also for being able to pop back up after taking a shot like that and then for having the audacity to immediately start working the ref.
It’s also a useful metaphor for his character. He’s always been highly emotional but he’s been knocked down more than once in life. He hasn’t always gotten up this quickly but the man has always, always gotten back up to fight again.
With the win, Arizona State can now start talking about parity with Arizona. They’re not quite there yet, but the conversation can begin.
And basketball fans in the Grand Canyon State have a rivalry that now goes both ways.
Greg Hansen, the worst columnist in America for our money, has his take here which, predictably, is full of sneers and implied superiority. Everyone outside of Tucson should thank the Daily Star for keeping this guy on for so many years despite his many missteps. At least he’s mostly contained to Southern Arizona.
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