Arizona State basketball coach Bobby Hurley understands his team’s matchup with the 12th-ranked Arizona Wildcats Wednesday night in Tucson is a big one.
“You just play out different scenarios,” he told Doug and Wolf on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Wednesday morning. “We put ourselves in a hole in conference play so we’ve been fighting to try and get back in the race somehow, and just put ourselves in decent position.
“Every time you either win a game or lose a game you start playing different scenarios of games we need to win, how we’re going to get back in the picture. It hasn’t always played out and I’ve had to form a new plan just about after every game, so this is obviously a critical point for us in the season right now and it even supersedes the rivalry and what that means. At this point, we’re kind of trying to fight for our season right now.”
The Sun Devils enter the game, which will tip off at 7 p.m. and can be heard on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM, with a 14-12 record but a 4-9 mark in Pac-12 play. While their opponent is battling for the conference title, Hurley’s squad is focused on trying to play well and improve their standing heading into next month’s conference tournament in Las Vegas.
The Sun Devils occupy the second-to-last spot in the conference standings, which is not where anyone thought they would be following a solid 10-3 non-conference performance.
While a victory over the 21-5 (9-4) Wildcats would not vault ASU to the top of the standings or into the NCAA Tournament, a road win over their rival would go a long way toward feeling good about this season.
On Jan. 3, in Tempe, the Wildcats beat the Sun Devils by a score of 94-82, with Hurley getting ejected in the final minute. It was Hurley’s first taste of Pac-12 play as well as the rivalry, though his experience as a player in the Duke vs. North Carolina battles helped him prepare for games like this.
“Desire to play, and if anything there should be plenty of emotion and anticipation and excitement to play in this game,” he said. “If anything, it’s just going to be trying to manage your emotions and keep them in check.
“I think that’s partially my job to try and have poise and talk about composure, and we understand that no matter how good we play in this game, that Arizona has had a ton of success this year, they expect to win, they believe they’re going to win — especially on their home court — and they’re going to come at us, and we’ve got to be prepared to respond from challenges they make throughout the course of the game.”