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TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — Jayson Gee has coached for 30 years, watching and playing against some of the best teams in country.
After No. 3 Arizona State turned a tight game into a 34-point blowout over his team, the Longwood coach was ready to put the Sun Devils up against any of them.
"This is going to sound crazy, but they've got a Final Four formula," Gee said after Arizona State blew past his Lancers 95-61 on Tuesday night. "You've got senior guards, you've got the ability to score, you can defend and you've got a low-post presence. They will be scary in the NCAA Tournament."
First the Sun Devils will have to get past the slow starts that have plagued them.
Arizona State (11-0) struggled early for the second straight game, unable to find many seams in Longwood's zone or get shots to fall from the perimeter during the first half.
Once the second half rolled around, the Sun Devils' quick-burst offense ignited.
Pressuring the Lancers into mistakes and getting out in transition, the Sun Devils went on a 16-1 run to turn a five-point halftime lead into a 54-35 advantage in the opening 6 1/2 minutes.
Senior guard Tra Holder led the way, finishing with 20 points, six assists, six steals and five rebounds. Kodi Justice provided the second-half spark and finished with 18 points.
Mickey Mitchell provided a lift off the bench with his rugged play, rebounding and ability to find seams in Longwood's high post in the second half.
With the victory, the Sun Devils extended the best start in school history remained one of college basketball's four undefeated teams.
"As it's happening, it doesn't feel real, based on how far we've come so quickly," Arizona State coach Bobby Hurley said. "But there's a lot of basketball left and we have to keep improving."
Longwood (3-9) played without two starters, including leading scorer Isaiah Walton, yet kept the No. 3 team in the country within reach the first half.
The Lancers struggled again Arizona State's press in the second half and had a hard time keeping track of its bevy of shooters after shutting them down the opening 20 minutes.
Kamil Chapman had 16 points to lead the Lancers, who had 16 of their 26 turnovers in the second half.
"I told my team at halftime, he (Hurley) makes $2-3 million to speed this game up," Gee said. "Give him credit. That press really dictated the game and turned if for them in the second half."
Arizona State overcame a slow start to beat Vanderbilt on Sunday and moved ahead of Hurley's college team, Duke, to No. 3 in the AP Top 25. That matched the highest ranking in school history (1981 and 1963).
Arizona State got off to another slow start against the Lancers, the No. 344 team in the KenPom rankings, missing 13 of its first 17 shots. The Sun Devils only improved marginally from there, shooting 10 of 30 from the field and 4 of 15 from the 3-point arc to cling to a 35-30 halftime lead.
Arizona State started to solve Longwood's zone in the second half and caused problems for the Lancers with pressure of their own.
A team that can put up points in a hurry , the Sun Devils did just that, going on a 12-0 run to take a 50-34 lead. Justice hit a 3-pointer during the run and made a nifty left-handed, no-look dish to set up Romello White for a basket inside on consecutive possessions to get the rout going.
Longwood lost, but can take a lot away from hanging with the nation's No. 3 team for a half.
Arizona State could stand to get off to better starts, but again showed why it's one of the best teams in the country with a dominating second half.
Arizona State relies on its three senior guards, but Remy Martin has been a big part of Arizona State's success.
The feisty freshman is one of the nation's fastest players with the ball and is a smothering defender who can get under the skin of opposing point guards. He finished with 13 points, nine assists, seven rebounds in 28 turnover-less minutes.
"Remy is such an electric player," Hurley said. "You never know what he's going to do next."
Longwood heads across the Valley of the Sun to play Grand Canyon on Thursday.
Arizona State hosts Pacific on Friday.
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