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Hurley liked shorthanded ASU’s defense, fight vs. Mississippi State

Arizona State head coach Bobby Hurley yells toward the court during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Mississippi State, Monday, Nov. 19, 2018, in Las Vegas. Arizona State won 72-67. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Arizona State needed key stops and big shots to hang on to a win over No. 15 Mississippi State on Monday night.

Coach Bobby Hurley’s Sun Devils took a 72-67 victory over the Bulldogs in Las Vegas to set up a title game appearance against Utah State in the MGM Main Event tournament. They dropped a ranked opponent with a solid first punch, a strong defensive performance and Kimani Lawrence’s huge three late.

There were also chips on the Sun Devils’ respective shoulders.

“It’s the guys we’ve recruited. They want to play in games like this, high-level games,” Hurley told Doug & Wolf  on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station. “A number of Mississippi State guys are on NBA Draft boards. They have multiple threats and are a top-20 team. The whole deal, I think our guys feel like we’re not being looked at in that regard. They had a chip on that shoulder.”

Somebody apparently forgot to tell Hurley that the highest-rated NBA prospect in the game was ASU freshman Luguentz Dort, who scored 17 points.

Nonetheless, the Sun Devils played as if the missing numeral before their name in the box score bothered them.

Lawrence scored 22 points to lead ASU, matching the output of MSU’s Aric Holman, a top 100 NBA Draft prospect, according to ESPN.

Point guard Remy Martin, on an ankle sprain bad enough to keep him out of the morning shootaround, scored 16 points to go with seven assists. He held up against guard Lamar Peters, who shot 3-of-12 and scored 10 points to go with six assists. Peters is also a top-100 ESPN-rated prospect.

From a team standpoint, ASU’s defense held a team that was averaging 84 points through three games to 67 points on 36 percent shooting.

Arizona State went to a long lineup at times and switched to a zone to emphasize its size — something it couldn’t do last season.

“With Remy out of the game if I’m giving him a breather — that I have (shooting guard) Luguentz Dort at point guard at 6-4 and everyone else on the court is 6-7 or bigger, it makes sense to do it,” Hurley said. “I think it’s a good change-of-pace for us.”

And most impressive of all to Hurley, something that validates his team’s apparent chip on the shoulder: the Sun Devils defeated a ranked team without Rob Edwards, the guard transfer who has missed all but the opener due to a back injury.

“What everyone may not even know is the guy I thought would probably lead us in scoring right now isn’t even playing right now and we’re still beating a top-25 team,” Hurley said.

Doug & Wolf

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