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ASU men’s basketball still searching for elusive conference sweep

Arizona State forward Romello White (23) dunks during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Washington State in Pullman, Wash., Sunday, Feb. 4, 2018. (AP Photo/Young Kwak)

TEMPE — In Bobby Hurley’s two-plus seasons leading the Arizona State men’s basketball team, he has seen them go from cellar-dwellers to NCAA Tournament contenders.

But one in-conference achievement still alludes them: sweeping a conference weekend.

You have to go all the way back to March 5 and 7, 2015 for the last time an ASU team swept a conference weekend. Senior guard Tra Holder was the only player on the current roster to see the floor in those games, combining for 19 points in wins over Stanford and California.

But that was under Herb Sendek, in his final regular season weekend at the head of the program.

This iteration of the Sun Devils are still waiting, and Holder and company are still searching for the right way to prepare to get off to that strong start.

“I don’t know, because we haven’t done it,” Holder said. “Maybe if we get this win and get two in a row, we’ll have a more confident mentality.”

That problem has been amplified this season, as after a 12-0 start, the Sun Devils are winless in weekday Pac-12 games, and have not won the first game of a set since beating Washington on February 16, 2017.

That was also the last time ASU won back-to-back conference games after beating Stanford the week before.

That’s not to say the Sun Devils haven’t been in position. They have lost two games in overtime and have not lost by more than nine points as of yet, but still, that pesky sweep alludes them. So just how hard is it to sweep in the Pac-12?

“We haven’t done it, so it’s been pretty tough,” Hurley said with a chuckle. “We’ve just got to keep knocking on the door and putting ourselves in position.”

This season, there have been 15 sweeps in 60 completed weekend pairings, including three each by conference-leaders Arizona and USC, who visit Wells Fargo Arena Thursday night.

This was not a situation ASU thought it would have to deal with this season, especially after apparently conquering these demons in December.

In December, Hurley compared his preparation to play St. John’s and Kansas on a Friday and Sunday to what his team would have to deal with in Pac-12 play and the NCAA Tournament. ASU won both games, increasing confidence this team was different.

“I’m not changing who we are or what we do,” Hurley, who’s one-year contract extension was approved by the Arizona Board of Regents today, said. “It’s just kind of, like, how we prepare.”

Hurley said he’s prepared the same way each week and ASU has been in a majority of games, things just haven’t gone his way. One thing he said he did change slightly, was his focus on winning both games, focusing more on the task at hand.

“I don’t think it’s a mental issue with the players,” Hurley said. “I talk about it every week, we’ve got to try to have an undefeated week. I didn’t talk about it as much this week.”

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