BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) — Remy Martin made another strong case for Pac-12 player of the year honors and positioned Arizona State to make a run at the conference title.
Not bad for a player who spent a large chunk of the first half on the bench in foul trouble.
Martin scored 15 of his 22 points over the final 11 minutes, and Arizona State pulled away late for its fifth straight win, beating California 80-75 on Sunday to move a half-game out of first place in the conference standings.
“I’m just trying to do whatever I can to help my team win. I know I say that a lot but it’s true,” Martin said after his ninth 20-point game in the last 12. “I just try to go out there and make the plays. I sensed that (Cal’s) momentum was taking them somewhere and I just wanted to stop that momentum.”
Martin, the Pac-12’s leading scorer, was mostly quiet through much of the game due to foul trouble then took over midway through the second half. He scored 12 of Arizona State’s 16 points during one stretch, then made a 3-pointer to put the Sun Devils ahead 71-63 with two minutes remaining.
One of Martin’s baskets came when he suddenly stopped running and shot while standing on one leg.
“When the chips were down he was hitting all kinds of shots,” Arizona State coach Bobby Hurley said. “He continues to surprise me, the things that I see him do out there. He’s gained a lot of leeway with me to take those shots because he’s making so many of them. If he misses then I live with it. That’s just how it is.”
California got within 78-75 following Kareem South’s three-point play with 14 seconds left before Alonzo Verge Jr. made two free throws to seal it.
Verge finished with 22 points including seven free throws in the final 54 seconds for the Sun Devils (17-8, 8-4 Pac-12). Romello White added 10 points and 10 rebounds.
It’s Arizona State’s first five-game conference winning streak since 2008-09 when the Sun Devils were led by 2018 NBA MVP James Harden.
“We never wavered from what the main goal was,” Verge said. “We knew how hard we worked and we knew what we were capable of doing. That’s what we’re doing now. It’s all starting to come to life.”
Matt Bradley scored 22 points for California before fouling out. Grant Anticevich added 18 points, and Paris Austin had 17 points, five assists and five rebounds for the Golden Bears (10-15, 4-8).
“At the end you just have to tip your hat to Remy Martin, who made some terrific plays,” California coach Mark Fox said. “Sometimes in defeats you play well but we didn’t win, which is what we came here to do.”
Both teams played long stretches without their leading scorers due to foul trouble. Bradley was whistled for two fouls in the game’s first 75 seconds while Martin sat out 5 ½ minutes after picking up his second midway through the half.
Anticevich kept the Bears close with 14 points before the half. That was his most in any game since scoring 16 against Stanford in the Pac-12 opener on Jan. 2.
Arizona State: The Sun Devils are the hottest team in the Pac-12 and are positioning themselves for a possible NCAA berth as well. It’s also Arizona State’s first road sweep in the Pac-12 since 2010. The Sun Devils beat Stanford on Thursday. All good signs for Hurley’s team.
California: The Bears stayed close but couldn’t slow down Martin when it counted. Overall, California continues to make progress but they remain in the lower half of the Pac-12 standings.
Arizona State: Host No. 17 Oregon on Thursday. The Ducks won when the two teams played in Eugene on Jan. 11.
California: Play at Washington State on Wednesday. The Bears beat the Cougars earlier this season at Haas Pavilion.
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