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Arizona State hopes defensive success continues against St. Mary’s

Romello White #23 of the Arizona State Sun Devils reacts after scoring against the Georgia Bulldogs during the second half of the NCAAB game at Desert Financial Arena on December 14, 2019 in Tempe, Arizona. The Sun Devils defeated the Bulldogs 79-59. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The first NET rankings for NCAA basketball were released this week, and Arizona State men’s basketball started out at a solid No. 30 spot, something that head coach Bobby Hurley is pleased with.

“I think it’s because we scheduled hard, we’re winning road games and we’re winning neutral-site games,” Hurley told 98.7 FM Arizona Sports Station’s Doug & Wolf on Tuesday.

The team is riding a five-game win streak with St. Mary’s coming to town on Wednesday for the Basketball Hall of Fame Showcase for a neutral-site game at Talking Stick Resort Arena.

The game will be a solid challenge for the Sun Devils. A win against the Gaels would help to boost their resume when it comes time to dance in March. St. Mary’s is a team that regularly makes the tournament and already has solid wins of their own, like beating No. 15 Utah State in November.

For this Sun Devil team, Hurley said the defense has been key for the team’s 8-2 start to the season.

“I think it’s our pressure, our guards and using our speed and athleticism on the perimeter,” Hurley said. “Jaelen House and Remy Martin are the catalysts.”

Martin and House are leading the team in steals with 23 and 22, respectively.

Another one of the big contributors to that defense is redshirt-junior forward Romello White, who’s averaging 10.8 rebounds per game.

Hurley said White has worked hard in the off season to get his body fat down, which has increased his speed. He said he worked on his game around the basket more.

“Fifteen feet and in has been his territory, and it’s been that way most of the season so far,” Hurley said.

ASU is one of the best teams in the NCAA at defending the three, ranking 12th in the country, allowing opponents to complete 26.5% of shots from that mark. They even held Georgia to just 8% on Saturday.

That defense will surely be tested on Wednesday since St. Mary’s has the highest three-point percentage in the country at 45.7% on 247 attempts.

When the script is flipped, shooting the three has been one of the glaring struggles in the Sun Devil offense this season. In their previous game against Georgia, the team shot 24% from beyond the arc and they’re averaging 30.5% this season.

“I do hope we continue to shoot better. We do need to put the ball in from distance in order to become the team that I’m hopeful that we can be. I think that’s one thing that has been holding us back a bit,” Hurley said.

The Sun Devil offense is averaging 76.0 points per game behind Martin (20.3 PPG), White (12.7 PPG), and redshirt-senior guard Rob Edwards (11.5 PPG).

Tip off for Wednesday’s game is set of 7:00 p.m. Listen live on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station. 

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