#3 Villanova and #18 Arizona State take Day 1 of the 2K Empire Classic


November 26, 2020

(stories courtesy of the Associated Press)

Arizona State holds off Rhode Island 94-88

UNCASVILLE, Conn. (AP) — Remy Martin eclipsed 20 points for the 26th time in his Arizona State career Friday night and his team needed virtually every one of them to avoid an upset.

Martin scored 26 points and freshman Marcus Bagley made three key free throws in the final minute to lead No. 18 Arizona State to a 94-88 win over Rhode Island in the Empire Classic on Wednesday night.

Bagley added 16 points while Taeshon Cherry, Josh Christopher and Holland Woods added 11 apiece in a game that featured 81 combined free throws, 55 fouls and two technicals.

”It was surreal at first,” Bagley said of his first college game. ”I’ve dreamed about playing for Arizona State and to finally be out there with ASU across my chest felt amazing.”

Chris Osten’s three-point play with 2:59 left gave the Sun Devils the lead for good at 89-86.

”Chris, overall, was huge tonight,” ASU coach Bob Hurley said. ”He doesn’t miss practice, works his (butt) off every day. Karma is good to people like that.”

Jeremy Sheppard and Georgetown transfer Antawn Walker led Rhode Island with 19 points apiece.

Walker scored 14 straight points for the Rams early in the second half. His 3-pointer with 12:33 left gave Rhode Island a 67-64 lead, helping the Rams erase what was once a 16-point deficit.

Arizona State used a 16-3 run midway through the first half to turn a 16-13 lead into a 32-16 advantage. The Sun Devils led by as many as 16 before Rhode Island cut it to 48-41 by halftime.

”I’ve got to do a better job at keeping my composure as well,” Rhode Island coach David Cox said. ”I went all last year without a technical and I showed a lack of discipline myself. We had four guys with three fouls in the first half. I’ve never coached in a game like that.”

ASU’s opponent was supposed to be No. 2 Baylor until learning that coach Scott Drew contracted COVID-19 and began a mandatory quarantine.


Arizona State: The victory came the way many have in the Bob Hurley era: with plenty of offense. The Sun Devils are the highest scoring team in the Pac-12 over the past three seasons, averaging 78.1 points per game. It’s led to more lofty expectations, including a chance at a third straight NCAA Tournament appearance since the early 1960s.

Rhode Island: The Rams return only five players from last season and will rely on several transfers who need to become more familiar with each other. Rhode Island was picked to finish sixth in the Atlantic 10 preseason poll, following 20-win seasons in three of the last four years.


Arizona State plays Thursday night against No. 3 Villanova, a 76-67 winner over Boston College in the late game at the Empire Classic.

Rhode Island faces Boston College.

No. 3 Villanova opens with 76-67 win over Boston College

UNCASVILLE, Conn. (AP) — Jeremiah Robinson-Earl spent much of the first half of Villanova’s season opener on the bench with two early fouls.

He was the difference in the second half, scoring 14 of his 18 points as the Wildcats overcame a nine-point deficit to beat Boston College 76-67 on Wednesday night in the first round of the Empire Classic.

”We’re definitely a different team when Jerimiah’s on the floor,” coach Jay Wright said.

Collin Gillespie added 15 points and Justin Moore and Caleb Daniels each had 14 for the Wildcats, who will play Arizona State in the tournament championship game Thursday.

Jay Heath scored 16 points and Makai Ashton-Langford added 15 for Boston College.

The teams were tied at 34 going into halftime and the underdog Eagles grabbed the momentum early in the second half.

A 3-pointer from Quinnipiac transfer Rich Kelly capped an 8-0 run that gave BC a 49-41 lead, and a 3 by Ashton-Langford extended that to 57-48 with 13 minutes left.

But the Wildcats responded by going on an 11-1 run.

”We just keep playing hard,” Robinson-Earl said. ”Don’t let the score dictate how we play. It’s a long game, so there’s a lot of time to get stops, be patient on offense and just keep playing together.”

A jumper by Gillespie put the Wildcats back on top 59-58 and Villanova took the lead for good at 63-61 on a hook shot by Moore with just over six minutes left.

Villanova outscored Boston College 6-1 over the final three minutes to seal it.

The Empire Classic was moved from its traditional home in New York to become part of an 11-day event dubbed ”Bubbleville,” being played inside the Mohegan Sun resort casino in Connecticut.

Each program is given its own floor in the resort’s hotel tower and the teams are using back-of-house passageways to avoid the gaming floor and other guests.


Villanova: The Wildcats showed a bit of the rust that Wright was worried about going into the game. They were among the teams forced to take a 14-day hiatus from workouts during the preseason after several members of the program tested positive in September for the novel coronavirus. A combination of illness and injury also had Wright running early practices with only eight players.

Boston College: There were relatively low expectations for BC coming into this season, but the Eagles opened some eyes. They were picked to finish 14th in the ACC after losing four of their top six scorers from a 13-19 team.

”The people who picked us 14th in the ACC needed to watch the game,” coach Jim Christian said. ”That doesn’t mean anything to our team. We don’t think we’re 14th. We came here to win this basketball game and we gave ourselves opportunities to do it.”


Boston College hasn’t had much luck against the nation’s elite programs. The Eagles are 6-57 against teams ranked in the top five. This was the first meeting between the two former Big East rivals in 14 years. Villanova has won 54 of the 78 matchups.


The Wildcats were without two players who are expected to play key roles this season. Villanova forward Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree has a shin injury and guard Bryan Antoine missed the trip to Mohegan Sun to more fully recover after re-injuring his right shoulder last month. He had surgery on the same shoulder in 2019.


Wright said his team finally started figuring out Boston College’s 3-2 zone defense in the second half and was able to penetrate more effectively. The Wildcats shot 50% for the game and 54.5% after intermission.


Villanova will face No. 18 Arizona State in Thursday’s championship game. The Sun Devils beat Rhode Island 94-88 earlier Wednesday.

Boston College will face Rhode Island in Thursday’s consolation game.

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