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ASU coach Hurley: Tough road makes you strive harder, push more

Arizona State head coach Bobby Hurley reacts to a call during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Arizona, Saturday, March 4, 2017, in Tempe, Ariz. Arizona defeated Arizona State 73-60. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
LISTEN: Bobby Hurley, ASU basketball coach

Bobby Hurley is not the first to experience it, and it’s reasonable to assume he will not be the last.

His Arizona State Sun Devils playing a home game against the Arizona Wildcats, with it at times sounding like the matchup was in Tucson.

Chants of “U-of-A” and “Bobby” could be heard all throughout last Saturday’s game, which the Wildcats ultimately won 73-60.

For Hurley, who in two seasons with the Sun Devils is 0-4 against his in-state rival, it’s not something that really gnaws at him.

“I’m just trying to soak in every bit of negativeness that I can in this journey that I’m going through,” he told Doug and Wolf on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Tuesday morning. “So anything negative, I’m just going to absorb it and I’m going to file it and hope for a better day in the future.”

Hurley went on to say he feels strongly about the trajectory the ASU program is on, with the players already on board as well as those who are in the recruiting pipeline.

“But at the same time as me saying that, I do very much tune a lot out,” he said. “Our coaches say to me, ‘Did you hear that whole row of fans yelling at you the entire game?’ — no, I didn’t, because I’m very focused on what’s happening in the game I can’t really allow myself to think about a whole lot else.”

While Hurley said he does not pay much attention to all the noise, he said he remembers everything that goes on with all the teams they play against and opposing fans they deal with.

“It makes you strive harder, it makes you push more, it makes you more hungry for success,” he said. “I think once you get it where you want it to be, it makes it more satisfying. I’m hoping that’s what happens.”

The Sun Devils wrapped up their regular season with a 14-17 overall record and a 7-11 mark in the Pac-12. While the record itself is not great, it’s an improvement from last year and it was apparent all season long that if nothing else, Hurley’s team played hard.

Shorthanded and undersized, the Devils were rarely blown out and were able to give some of the top teams in the conference a run for their money. Hurley felt good about how his team fared against Arizona Saturday, having a lead in the first half and trailing by one at the break before things went a bit sideways after, and is optimistic as they prepare for the Pac-12 Tournament.

The Sun Devils’ first game in Las Vegas will be Wednesday at 1 p.m. against Stanford, with the winner taking on top-seeded Oregon Thursday, also at 1 p.m.

Arizona State swept the season series with Stanford, winning 98-93 in Palo Alto in December and 75-69 in Tempe in February. Hurley, however, praised what the Cardinal bring to the table, highlighting the interior game featuring Reid Travis and Michael Humphrey as well as perimeter scorer Dorian Pickens.

On top of that, Hurley acknowledged the difficulty some see in beating a team three times in a single season. That, however, is not really a concern.

“I think we’re both playing for our seasons, and that’s what we have going for us in this situation,” he said. “We both should be desperate, hungry to get a win, hungry to see your team continue to advance, see how far you could play in March, start building a legacy for doing that,” he said. “So there’s a lot to play for, both teams.

“We have to exploit and take advantage of the things we can vs. Stanford, and hopefully we’re working on those things on the practice floor [Monday] and [Tuesday] to get ready.”

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