Dort scores 33 to lead Arizona State past Utah State 87-82
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Some may say Arizona State freshman Luguentz Dort flew under the radar as a recruit out of Montreal.
Five games into the season, the cat’s out of the bag.
Luguentz Dort scored 33 points and Arizona State beat Utah State 87-82 on Wednesday night to win the heavyweight bracket of the MGM Main Event.
Dort’s tally placed him third in program history for single-game scoring by a freshman, behind Mario Bennett (35 in 1992) and Jahii Carson (34 in 2013).
“I’m confident enough to say ... the work I put in, I’m confident enough to say I really thought three or four games in people would start knowing me,” said Dort, who is averaging 23 points and 34.4 minutes per game. “That was my goal because not a lot of people know me coming from Canada ... for me, to come here and have an impact right away.”
Taeshon Cherry added 15 points and four rebounds for the Sun Devils, while Remy Martin added 13 and Kimani Lawrence chipped in with 10.
Arizona State has won 18 consecutive non-conference games during the regular season. The two-day sweep marked the second straight year the Sun Devils came to Las Vegas on Thanksgiving week, knocked off a Top 25 team and captured a tournament.
The Sun Devils, who defeated No. 15 Mississippi State on Monday, beat Kansas State and then-No. 15 Xavier to win the 2017 Continental Tire Invitational at the Orleans Arena.
The Sun Devils (5-0) used a balance of perimeter shooting and points in the paint to overcome a seven-point deficit early in the first half, while Dort led the charge in the second half, scoring 19 in the final 20 minutes.
“He was so composed throughout the game, just big shot after big shot,” Arizona State coach Bobby Hurley said about Dort. “I think he knows how gifted he is, how talented he is. He’s a worker, got a great attitude ... he’s really beyond his years.”
Utah State (5-1) was led by Sam Merrill and Dwayne Brown Jr., who scored 27 and 14, respectively.
The Aggies regained the lead early in the second half, using a 6-0 run to pull ahead 47-44 with 15:53 left in the game. But the Sun Devils responded with a 10-3 run of their own, capped by a 3-pointer from Dort to give them a 54-50 lead.
Utah State coach Craig Smith likened Dort’s style of play to Indiana Pacers point guard Victor Oladipo, because of his size, explosiveness and ability to score from anywhere on the court.
“When he’s consistently making shots like that, he’s just an unbelievable player because he does it all,” Smith said. “He plays his rear end off on the defensive end, he’s really a disrupter on that end of the floor and nobody even talks about that. The best scorers in the world can shoot the three, have a pull-up game and get to the rim and get freebies at the free throw line and he does all four.”
Dort, named the tournament MVP, finished with 10 of 15 shooting from the floor, including two 3-pointers, and 11 of 14 from the free throw line. As a team, the Sun Devils hit 50 percent (26 of 52) from the floor and outscored the Aggies on the break, 10-0.
Utah State, meanwhile, hit 44.6 percent (25 of 56) from the field, and went 7-for-23 (30.4 percent) from 3-point range.
“We survived not playing our best defense, we’ve been way better defensively,” Hurley said. “I give a lot of credit to coach Smith, he’s on the right track with his program. For a first-year coach, to have his team playing that hard and that together he’s gonna do a great job there.”
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