ARIZONA STATE BASKETBALL

ASU basketball leaving Bahamas failures behind ahead of first Pac-12 games

Nov 30, 2021, 11:13 AM
In a photo provided by Bahamas Visual Services, Arizona State forward Jalen Graham (2) is defended ...

In a photo provided by Bahamas Visual Services, Arizona State forward Jalen Graham (2) is defended by Loyola Chicago's Ben Schwieger during an NCAA college basketball game at Paradise Island, Bahamas, Friday, Nov. 26, 2021. (Tim Aylen/Bahamas Visual Services via AP)

(Tim Aylen/Bahamas Visual Services via AP)

Arizona State firmly lost the Battle 4 Atlantis last week.

The Sun Devils, coming off of three losses in three days in the Bahamas, have no time to dwell on their shortcomings with Pac-12 play beginning Wednesday at home against Washington State.

Weaknesses came up in all three losses against No. 4 Baylor, Syracuse and Loyola Chicago. Despite the Sun Devils being competitive in periods of all three games, particularly in the first halves, they lost every game by at least eight points.

ASU’s performance in the tournament was even more concerning after a tough two-point loss at San Diego State before heading off to the Bahamas showed signs of how competitive the Sun Devils can be.

“Outside of the Syracuse game, where we had 22 assists and scored 84 points, our offense has not been what it’s been in years past and we have to figure out a way to generate more points,” Hurley said Tuesday on Arizona Sports’ Bickley & Marotta.

The scoring and assist-making against Syracuse mainly came in the second half, when ASU shot 11-of-23 from beyond the three-point arc. That led to an effective 14 second-half assists with only one turnover.

Despite a solid second half, ASU failed to get Syracuse’s lead to single digits until there was less than three minutes left in the game. That’s because the defense might be in a worse position than the offense.

The Sun Devils allowed Syracuse and Loyola Chicago to shoot at least 50% from the floor. ASU allowed at least 1.1 points per possession in all three games in the Bahamas.

Over the course of the week, ASU’s adjusted defensive efficiency slipped from 94.2 to 97.9, according to KenPom. The Sun Devils went from 62nd nationally in that category to falling out of the top 100.

Hurley believes the defensive side of the ball may be missing sophomore Marcus Bagley.

Bagley has missed each of ASU’s last four games after suffering a knee injury against North Florida on Nov. 15.

“It’s not only his scoring, but it’s his defense, his rebounding and his overall athleticism that he brings to the team,” Hurley said.

Hurley said that Bagley won’t be rushed back into action, particularly early this week.

“We’re still in the process of getting a handle on what the timeline looks like, but it’s not going to be Wednesday and then we’re going to play it by ear,” Hurley said.

That could be troublesome given Wednesday’s opponent. The Cougars are averaging 84.5 points per game so far this season, second in the Pac-12. ASU, meanwhile, is averaging 68.9 points per game so far this season.

Hurley said that this team needs to know what a successful game looks like in order to get back in the win column.

“It comes down to learning what it takes to win,” Hurley said. “I know my pre-COVID teams would be able to handle that. My teams from COVID to now have not done that. We have to figure out how to be more competitive early in the games and to get off to better starts.”

Hurley said that the Sun Devils seem to have put the Battle 4 Atlantis in the rearview mirror with a positive practice effort on Monday.

“Considering what we’ve been through, I thought the energy was there,” Hurley said. “There was a positive vibe. We just got to commit to keep getting better.”

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