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Bobby Hurley, Sun Devils prepare to host No. 1 Kansas

Arizona State head coach Bobby Hurley cheers on his players in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Vanderbilt, Monday, Dec. 17, 2018, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Last season, Arizona State was undefeated (12-0) in non-conference play before going 8-10 in conference play, followed by being eliminated in the first round of both the Pac-12 and NCAA Tournament.

This year, the Sun Devils will have a target on their back each and every game as they are currently ranked the No. 18 team in the country.

Last year at this time, head coach Bobby Hurley and his team visited Allen Fieldhouse to face then-No. 2 Kansas and came out with an incredibly impressive victory.

Kansas will be looking to get revenge over the Sun Devils, as this year’s edition will be hosted at Wells Fargo Arena on Saturday on ESPN.

Arizona State split its most recent road trip at SEC schools Georgia and Vanderbilt, including an 18-point comeback against Georgia to win 76-74.

“Being a nationally ranked team, a top-20 team, we got their best shot,” Hurley said on Doug & Wolf on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station. “It was great experience for our team leading in this game (against Kansas).”

Hurley emphasized that the team needs to work on things on the offensive side of the floor, as the lack of offensive production puts a lot of pressure on the defense.

Although the team has struggled offensively of late, the Devils are a top-20 rebounding team in the country, which can be attributed to Hurley’s recruiting.

“We started recruiting to start matching that type of athleticism that I saw immediately in the Pac-12,” Hurley said. “We have versality to how we could attack and compete within games … So despite not even playing well, we could stay in games because of our defense and ability to rebound.”

Last year, senior guard Lagerald Vick dropped 25 points on the Devils. This year, Vick is averaging 17 points a game, while junior forward Dedric Lawson is averaging a double-double at 20 points and 11 rebounds a game.

“Lawson upfront is a handful,” Hurley said.

“He’s a skilled four-man as there is in college basketball with his ability to face-up and score, put in on the floor, he has post moves, he can pass. He’s a great all around player. And those are just two guys. They have multiple freshmen that were McDonald’s All-Americans that are having a great impact … They’ll be up for the challenge.”

Kansas is coming into Tempe as the No. 1 team in the country with a 10-0 record that includes three wins over top-25 opponents, while ASU is 8-2 with a 1-1 record against ranked opponents. Not to mention, head coach Bill Self has a national championship and three Final Four appearances with Kansas in the last 10 years under his belt.

The Sun Devils will be leaning on freshman guard Luguentz Dort, who leads the team in minutes per game (34), points per game (20) and steals per game (2), but the Canadian struggled over the SEC road trip, as he combined for only 22 points and shot 22 percent (5-for-23) from the floor, compared to his season average of 41 percent.

Fortunately for Arizona State, Hurley, the former Duke point guard, two-time national champion, and Final Four Most Outstanding Player, is no stranger to big games and feels his team doesn’t need any extra motivation for a game of this magnitude.

“This is not a week where I need to motivate my team,” Hurley said. “It’s more about playing and executing and controlling your emotions … These are games you live for as a competitor.”

Doug & Wolf

Sun Devils Interviews and Podcasts