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Slow-starting ASU showed it can hang vs. Virginia, Hurley says

Virginia's Casey Morsell, right, dribbles around Arizona State's Jaelen House, left, during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019, in Uncasville, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

Quite quickly each season, Bobby Hurley has made it easy to find out a lot about his Arizona State team.

A 48-45 tournament loss Sunday to No. 7 Virginia continued to build the head coach’s reputation as a fearless schedule-maker. For this year’s team, there was easily value in losing to the reigning NCAA champion that is stylistically the polar opposite.

“Just felt like a high-level game,” Hurley told Doug & Wolf on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station. “We like to get up-and-down the floor. They’re more deliberate, more disciplined on offense and defense. I thought we conducted ourselves well and played pretty well.

“I think (it showed) that we could play and compete with anybody in the country when you go toe-to-toe with the No. 7 team in the country. They’ve had a ton of success. They have guys returning, they have a really good inside game, they have a great coach. They’re a legitimate program.”

Arizona State trailed 10-2 early and 26-16 with 55 seconds left in the first half, and that sluggish-starting basketball is something Hurley will attempt to change as the Sun Devils look ahead toward visiting Princeton on Tuesday.

Still, that ASU went on a 19-0 run in the last minute of the first half and first 6:28 of the second said a lot. Obviously, the shots fell.

But Arizona State’s defense also flexed for more than seven game minutes.

The undersized team’s defensive pressure held up, and Virginia shot just 36.7% from the field on the day.

With transfer Alonzo Verge out over the weekend tournament due to an undisclosed medical issue, the bench was down to seven heavily-used players.

Beyond that, Hurley liked the five minutes he got out of freshman forward Jalen Graham. The head coach also felt good about leaning on 25 minutes from fellow freshman Jaelen House, who didn’t score but brought hectic ball pressure, four rebounds, three assists and a steal.

Starting point guard Remy Martin unsurprisingly paced the Sun Devils with 21 points, three assists and two steals.

And in the end, it came down to a few missed shots by the Sun Devils or a few Virginia stops — depending on your perspective.

“We gave them our best shot and had plenty of chances to win,” Hurley said. “I think we had a nice lead and just weren’t able to make some shots.”

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