December 2, 2020

PU Men’s Hoops Fell in 2019 Battle with ASU’s Martin But Got on Right Track in Path to Ivy League Tourney

RAISING ARIZONA: Princeton University men’s basketball player Richmond Aririguzoh, right, battles in the paint against Lafayette in a 72-65 loss to the Leopards on November 13, 2019. Two weeks later, Aririguzoh grabbed a career-high 18 rebounds as the Tigers fell 67-65 to Arizona State. While the defeat left the Tigers at 0-5, they built on their performance that night to go 10-4 in their next 14 games on the way to a 14-13 campaign and a spot in the Ivy League postseason tournament. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Remy Martin is a fine French cognac, known worldwide for its smoothness.

But two nights before last Thanksgiving, another Remy Martin, the star guard for the Arizona State University men’s basketball team, produced a vintage performance at Jadwin Gym as the Sun Devils battled Princeton.

The 6’0, 175-pound Martin put on a dazzling display in the November 26 contest, electrifying a Jadwin throng of 2,727 that included Hall of Fame coach Bob Hurley Sr., the father of Bobby Hurley, the ASU head coach.

Slashing to the basket, draining pull-up jumpers, and hitting from long distance, Martin poured in 33 points, including a 23-point outburst in the second half.

Despite Martin’s heroics, Princeton, which brought a 0-4 record into the evening, was undeterred. With senior center Richmond Aririguzoh dominating in the paint with 16 points and a career-high 18 rebounds, the Tigers overcame a 46-39 second half deficit to lead 60-54 with 6:19 remaining in regulation.

Martin reeled off seven straight points to put the Sun Devils up 61-60. After ASU extended the advantage to 64-60, the Tigers clawed back. With Drew Friberg hitting a three-pointer and Tosan Evbuomwan dumping in a lay-up in the post, Princeton went ahead 65-64 with 15 seconds left.

In the waning moments of the contest, the ball went to Martin and as the crowd held its breath, he flipped it to Khalid Thomas, who drilled a three-pointer at the buzzer to give the Sun Devils a dramatic 67-65 victory.

Afterward Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson saw positives coming from the setback.

“We are obviously really disappointed in the result, but I am proud of the guys,” said Henderson, his curly hair disheveled after the frantic finish as he handled the postgame press conference.

“We were down 64-60 and in the toughest of moments and we answered. I thought we played really hard. We played to win, we did what we needed to do. Martin played out of his mind, he is really good.”

Former Tiger standout guard Henderson, a 1998 alum, enjoyed the raucous atmosphere prompted by the clash.

“I was glad to see and hear Jadwin get loud there again,” said Henderson, whose squad had the home fans cheering two weeks earlier when a late rally against Lafayette fell short in a 72-65 loss. “We have had two great games, two fun games to watch.”

It was a night of great emotion and a homecoming for New Jersey native Hurley, a legendary point guard for Duke who led the Blue Devils to back-to-back national titles in 1991 and 1992 and was a first-team All-American.

“I think the game was really about Remy and how dominant he was out there,” said Hurley, looking cool as a cucumber in a neatly pressed dress shirt as he fielded questions from the media.

“This is a tough game, an emotional game for me personally, coming back here and seeing my dad in the crowd and having the family here. It was a slight bit of distraction with just the old tendencies when I played to look to the crowd and see my dad. It is a lot to live up to.”

Although Princeton was winless coming into the contest, Hurley knew his squad was in for a fight.

“We knew they hadn’t won but they have been in some good games,” said Hurley.

“In their Indiana game (a 79-54 loss on November 20), they very good in the first half on the road. I expected it to be like this. It was our first road game.”

For Henderson, the performance against ASU was a good sign for his struggling team.

“We are improving, we are getting better,” said Henderson. “I thought we played really well as team, I can’t count it as a win. We were competing throughout the course of the game. We know a little bit more who we are and how we are playing.”

Aririguzoh concurred, feeling that the Tigers were on the verge of a breakthrough.

“Like coach said, it is the first game for me where I felt like we played 40 minutes, that was one of the things we talked about,” said Aririguzoh.

“Indiana was more like one half and Lafayette was more like the second half. I think putting 40 minutes together was a huge step forward for us. With a team on the younger side, it is asking ‘can you do it again and apply what we learned today and bring some of that intensity down to Bucknell?’”

The Tigers brought that intensity to Bucknell, building on the effort against the Sun Devils by prevailing 87-77 over the Bison as they went 10-4 in their next 14 games on the way to a 14-13 campaign and earning a spot in the Ivy League postseason tournament.

But the Princeton players learned some tough lessons in early March as the COVID-19 outbreak ended up prompting the cancellation of the Ivy tourney and then the rest of the winter and spring seasons.

And with the Ivy 2020-21 winter sports season having recently been canceled, it might not be until next November that the fans at Jadwin get to experience the kind of excitement triggered by that encounter with the silky smooth Remy Martin and his Sun Devils.