ASU remaining proactive amid postponements, Cherry out vs. OSU
Another week, another postponement for the Arizona State men’s basketball team.
After getting seven games in to start the season, the Sun Devils’ schedule came to a screeching halt following a home loss to UTEP.
Since that 76-63 defeat on Dec. 16, ASU has managed to play just two contests — losses to UCLA and USC — with four games postponed or canceled due to COVID-19 concerns, two of which were due to positive tests within the Sun Devils’ program.
Then came Tuesday.
Following head coach Bobby Hurley’s weekly morning interview with Arizona Sports’ Doug & Wolf, ASU was told its Thursday matchup against Oregon was put on pause after a positive test within the Ducks’ program.
Bobby Hurley and Co. were forced — yet again — to “shift gears” on a whim, now focusing on Saturday’s matchup with Oregon State. What didn’t shift, however, is the team’s point of emphasis for the week.
“Thought we had a really nice day yesterday. I really liked what I saw from Remy [Martin] and Josh [Christopher] out there,” Hurley said via Zoom on Thursday. “We did a lot of scrimmaging and those two really worked well together so that was good to see. I thought the ball movement was very good.
“We’re trying to focus a little bit on the offensive end as we’ve kind of stemmed the tide with some of our issues. Transition defense and rebounding were way better against UCLA. Obviously, not as much against USC, but I think I chalk some of that up to not having a full complement of guys and maybe being a little fatigued after what UCLA took out of us.”
Despite suffering a second- and third-straight loss to UCLA and USC, Hurley saw a team that wanted to compete and play at a high level.
If the Sun Devils (4-5) can find some sort of continuity and consistency on the offensive end — they missed 12 straight shots against UCLA and fought back down 18 against USC at one point — Hurley can envision that strong offensive team he pictured before the season started come to fruition.
It also helps to have Martin back in the mix after the guard missed the past two games due to family matters. His 17 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game were certainly missed.
“You don’t want to hang your hat on moral victories, you want to win games, but I just liked our competitive spirit. I thought we battled,” Hurley said. “There was a will to win, there was a lot of gut-check moments in both games and I think we were up for the challenge.
“I think if we can bottle that up and add a little more efficiency on offense and get a little bit better on that end of the floor then we’ve got a chance to possibly go on a run.”
While the team gets a big boost with Martin returning to the starting lineup, the Sun Devils will be without junior forward Taeshon Cherry. Cherry, who has started three games this season, has missed the last two games due to COVID-19 protocols.
“The one roster issue this week will be Taeshon Cherry. Tae is going to be out Saturday,” Hurley said. “He’s not going to travel with the team. He’s going to take a little bit of time due to personal reasons. It’s been a tough year on everybody as we know, so Tae is going to take a small step back right now.”
The verdict is still out on sophomore forward Jalen Graham, who also missed the last two games due to mononucleosis. Hurley didn’t go as far as to say Graham will be available Saturday but believes the forward’s return is sooner rather than later.
“For a guy who’s not the biggest, strongest guy, he didn’t lose a lot of muscle mass and he had a good way about him in our conversation [Wednesday], so he’s anxious to get back,” Hurley said. “He shot some free throws and did some things on his own yesterday. I think it’s not too far in the future that you’re going to see him return.”
Monday game possibility
Four of the Sun Devils’ Pac-12 matchups have been postponed so far this season.
The postponements include games against both Washington schools, Utah and now Oregon following Tuesday’s development.
The conference has said it will work with the teams involved to reschedule matchups, but as the season rolls on and the postponements pile up, teams like ASU could have more games than they can play at the end of the year.
One way to combat that possibility is to squeeze in games whenever a team can, even if that forces your hand into a quick turnaround.
“We’re going to do the best thing we can do in the fastest way possible to try [to get games rescheduled],” Hurley said Thursday. “Our sports administrator Ken Landphere is working very hard behind the scenes to juggle our schedule, as are all the coaches being open to doing things that you normally wouldn’t do. We’re still trying to play Monday, we’re still trying to play somebody Monday.
“There’s a few possibilities but we’re not sure if anything is gonna materialize. We’re trying with a couple of schools that we already had postponements with to see if there’s a way to do it. And then we’ll fly back and have a short prep for Arizona. But if that means we get another game in then we’re going to do the best we can to do it.”
The Sun Devils have played just nine games (4-5) so far this season, tied with Oregon State and Utah for the fewest among the Pac-12. At this point, any additional games added to the schedule are a positive.