ASU’s Bobby Hurley emphasizing rebounding with larger starting lineup

Dec 3, 2020, 12:22 PM
Head coach Bobby Hurley of the Arizona State Sun Devils speaks with his team during  the first half...
Head coach Bobby Hurley of the Arizona State Sun Devils speaks with his team during the first half against the Oregon Ducks at Matthew Knight Arena on January 11, 2020 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
(Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

Arizona State starting guard Alonzo Verge Jr. was unable to suit up for the team’s home game against Houston Baptist on Sunday.

The result still went the way many thought even without the guard, as the Sun Devils cruised to a 100-77 win over the Huskies at home.

Not only did ASU improve to 2-1 on the season with the victory, Hurley also got a good look at a different starting lineup that could be a factor moving forward.

Plugging in 6-foot-8 forward Taeshon Cherry in place of the 6-foot-2 Verge provided much more height for Hurley and Co. to work with.

“Well in a way, with Alonzo not being available on Sunday, it gave me the opportunity to experiment with starting a bigger lineup and see what that looks like having Taeshon in there,” Hurley said via Zoom on Wednesday. “When we went out for the jump ball we just looked like a bigger college team. I think that was nice to see and certainly that’ll upgrade our rebounding ability.”

After being held to a season-low 27 rebounds to Villanova’s 43 in ASU’s lone loss, Hurley’s bigger lineup grabbed 34 boards in the win over Houston Baptist. Still, the team lost the rebound battle (38-34) for a second straight game.

With the Sun Devils’ top rebounder from a year prior, Romello White, no longer on the team after transferring in the offseason, sophomore forward Jalen Graham has been tasked to fill the void left behind on the glass. Unfortunately, the forward has dealt with foul troubles through the first three contests and has just nine rebounds on the year.

As it stands Thursday, freshman forward Marcus Bagley leads the team with 16 rebounds. He’s followed by freshman guard Josh Christopher (14) and junior forward Chris Osten (12). Verge, who is currently out, has 11.

Help could be on the way, however, as senior forward Kimani Lawrence works his way back from injury.

Playing in his first game this season on Sunday, Lawrence recorded 13 points, three rebounds, an assist and two steals in 16 minutes off the bench. Now with a game under his belt, the forward will look to improve on his season debut.

“I think Kimani coming back will be a boost to the core of the frontcourt rotation and provide more depth and again more rebounding,” Hurley said. “We’ve been preaching that pretty strong to make sure the guys understand the importance of going to the glass. Taking care of the defensive backboard is going to be key for us.”

Emphasizing rebounding will only add to the potential of the offense, especially as the team prepares for its first conference foe of the season in the California Golden Bears.

While the two teams are separated by just one offensive board — Cal leads 29-28 — the Golden Bears have outrebounded their opponents 133-124, including a 54-rebound effort against Northwest. ASU is on the opposite end of its overall rebound battle 114-101.

The importance of rebounding is on the tape. More boards lead to more opportunities for the offense to push the ball down the court, just like they did against the Huskies, Hurley added. They just have to continue to crash the glass.

“I assume my rotation won’t change a ton based off of what we did on Sunday,” Hurley said. “And then it will get tweaked based on who’s going well and what the terms of the game present to me.”

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