ARIZONA STATE BASKETBALL

ASU G Josh Christopher’s game evolving, F Marcus Bagley ‘100%’

Dec 29, 2020, 11:16 AM
(AP Photo/Jessica Hill)...
(AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
(AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

The Arizona State Sun Devils return to the hardwood for the first time in 15 days to take on the Washington State Cougars.

With the team’s last game resulting in a 76-63 loss to UTEP on Dec. 16, the Sun Devils (4-3) had an ample amount of time to work out the kinks.

“After the UTEP game, we had some soul searching and some really tough love with film sessions and some really tough practices. …  A little disappointed we didn’t get the opportunity [to play Utah],” head coach Bobby Hurley told Arizona Sports’ Doug & Wolf on Tuesday. “It gave us then a chance to get everyone fresh again and get back to work. We haven’t played in a long time, we’re anxious to get back out there and play a game.”

Looking at the team’s third loss of the season, one of the lone bright spots was Josh Christopher.

The freshman guard turned in his most complete game yet as a college athlete, recording 24 points, six rebounds, an assist, two blocks and four steals. He shot 50% from the field (5-of-10) and made four of his five attempts (80%) from the charity stripe.

While his offensive prowess was on full display, it was the rest of his game that left a lasting impression on Hurley.

“I think his last game was pretty special,” the head coach said. “He’s the one guy who had a really good rhythm in that game but it went beyond just the offensive end of the floor. I think he really locked into guarding better. He got a couple lose balls, he got a steal that translated to a basket in the open court.

“He had a defensive rebound that he took coast-to-coast in the first half and scored. He’s realizing and is understanding that if he can make some plays on the defensive end through rebounding that can translate to offense. I think he’s just starting to really figure it out.”

Potentially joining Christopher on the floor Thursday is fellow freshman and forward Marcus Bagley.

Bagley suffered a calf injury against California on Dec. 3 and has been working his way back to full strength. Through four games, Bagley averaged 13.0 points and a team-high 5.8 rebounds per contest.

From the sounds of it, the forward should be in the mix come Thursday. It would be a big boost for a team that has struggled on the glass this year. His return would also help against an 8-0 Washington State team that has four players averaging at least 4.6 rebounds per game.

“He was a part of those tough practices that arguably are more difficult than the games that you’ll play,” Hurley said. “He withstood that with no issues. Physically he’s 100% and we’re a way different team when he’s a part of what we’re doing. We’re excited to obviously get him back out on the floor with our group.

“I think he changes out team dramatically with his athleticism. He showed he was out leading rebounder prior to his injury and then his ability to stretch the defense and make shots I think adds a different dimension to our offense. We can’t wait to get Marcus back out there.”

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