Non-conference games allow Hurley, ASU to get better look at themselves

Dec 15, 2020, 1:13 PM | Updated: 1:17 pm
Arizona State coach Bobby Hurley, right, gestures while talking with an official during the second ...

Arizona State coach Bobby Hurley, right, gestures while talking with an official during the second half of the team's NCAA college basketball game against California in Berkeley, Calif., Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

(AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

One of Arizona State men’s basketball head coach Bobby Hurley’s goals is to always help his players develop, grow and keep working toward becoming a better team.

That’s why, when creating season schedules, the coach looks for non-conference games against high-quality opponents to challenge the Sun Devils in different ways.

“You try and create these good non-conference matchups to kind of simulate what its like to play an NCAA tournament team early in the year and also it shows you where you’re at,” Hurley told Arizona Sports’ Doug and Wolf on Tuesday.

ASU (4-2) got a taste of that challenge this past week, with an 80-68 loss to now-No. 18 San Diego State and a narrow 71-70 win over Grand Canyon University.

“You get exposed if you’re not good at a particular thing when you’re playing against a quality opponent like that,” Hurley said. “That’s been our philosophy with scheduling.”

Against San Diego, what was exposed to Hurley was the need for the team to trust the offense.

“At times certainly we have tremendous team speed and quickness to get out in the open court and score quickly and we’ve shown that we can turn teams over. … But if we’re in a half court game, we have to run offense,” he said. “We can’t break the offense and take a quick shot or have a poor turnover so that’s effected us the last two games. I don’t think we’ve played up to our potential.”

ASU hoops is 8-2 in non-conference road games under Hurley, and star Remy Martin’s most career points in a game have come against a non-conference opponent: 33 points against Princeton in November 2019.

But why play a mid-range school like GCU when looking for a high-powered matchup? Hurley said not to underestimate what can be learned in games like that one.

“GCU has been a program that has been surging,” he said. “They get tremendous support for their men’s basketball program. We thought it was a cool thing to begin locally and getting some of the political stuff out of the way, kind of paved the way for this beginning to happen.

“We’ve had a track record for wanting to play mid-major programs. Last year we went to Princeton to play and this year was GCU. So we hope to give more of the mid-majors a chance and not only limit ourselves to playing high-major programs.”

No matter the outcome, every game is a learning experience. After the crushing loss to San Diego, the team spent three hours watching film and understand how to better their game.

“We challenge our guys, we confront them on all these things and hope that we make the necessary adjustments,” Hurley said.

ASU’s next non-conference matchup comes at home Wednesday against University of Texas-El Paso. Catch all the action live on ESPN 620 AM. Tip-off is at 7 p.m.

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Non-conference games allow Hurley, ASU to get better look at themselves