Cal men’s basketball runs losing streak to four games vs. Arizona State

Arizona State head coach Bobby Hurley did Cal a favor putting a starting lineup on the floor that didn’t include Remy Martin on Wednesday night.

Once the jitterbug guard got into the game, however, the Bears simply couldn’t hang and took an 80-66 loss in front of a sparse crowd at Haas Pavilion.

Martin, who has come off the bench three other times this season, knocked down 5 of 7 three-point attempts for a season-high 24 points on a night when Cal showed some defensive improvement.

After allowing 90 points per game during the conference-opening weekend in Los Angeles, the Bears (5-10, 0-3) limited Arizona State to just 30.8 percent shooting from three-point range. Complete with matching mouth guards to signify a newfound toughness, Cal got beat on the boards by only one against one of the nation’s top rebounding teams.

But none of it was enough to stay with Arizona State (11-4, 2-1), which had split their past four games, including closing the nonconference slate with dramatically different outcomes. They beat then-No. 1 Kansas on Dec. 22 and turned around and loss to Princeton at home Dec. 29.

The Sun Devils had three other players join Martin in double-digit scoring. Zylan Cheatham had 17 points and six rebounds, Rob Edwards added 13 points and six rebounds, and Luguentz Dort chipped in 13 points.

The Bears, playing without point guard Paris Austin because of a sprained ankle, were led by Matt Bradley’s 19 points and Darius McNeill’s 16. They showed much better than they did a year ago against the Sun Devils, who swept last season’s series, including pitching a shutout from the three-point line in one game.

It took Arizona State a little longer to run away this one. Cal trailed for only 18 seconds and led by as many as 14 points in the first half as Arizona State appeared confused by the Bears’ zone defense and opened the game 1-of-12 from the floor and 0-for-7 from three-point range.

Justice Sueing’s swipe and slam midway through the first quarter ignited an 11-1 run that put Cal ahead 25-11. The Sun Devils were still down by nine when head coach Bobby Hurley lit into his team during a timeout with just more than three minutes to play in the first half.

Martin had seven points and assisted a Cheatham dunk in the final three minutes of the first half to trim the deficit 35-33 before the break. There were four ties and four lead changes in the second half’s opening four minutes, including Cheatham’s three-point play that ended the back and forth.

His layup and the ensuing free throw started a 14-3 run that extended Arizona State’s lead to 55-44 with 9:20 remaining. Cal went 10 ½ minutes between second-half field goals, finally getting a Bradley three-pointer to fall with 7:43 to trim the deficit to 60-49.

Rusty Simmons is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: Twitter: @Rusty_SFChron

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