Hurley hopes ASU’s bounceback from WSU loss sparks confidence

Dec 7, 2021, 9:46 AM | Updated: 10:56 am
Arizona State guard DJ Horne (0) drives against Oregon during an NCAA college basketball game in Eu...

Arizona State guard DJ Horne (0) drives against Oregon during an NCAA college basketball game in Eugene, Ore., Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021. (AP Photo/Thomas Boyd)

(AP Photo/Thomas Boyd)

Arizona State suffered four straight losses, one in San Diego and three in the Bahamas, even before the low of this men’s basketball season.

Within that wider context, Bobby Hurley admits his squad was vulnerable after that losing skid extended to five games with a 51-29 loss to Washington State last Wednesday.

The head coach did not flush the performance that saw his team shoot 21% from the field. He addressed it in a film session afterward, being careful not to coach too harshly but to point out fixable mistakes. How it was handled apparently worked: The Sun Devils (3-6) responded Sunday with a 69-67 overtime win at the Oregon Ducks.

“You can’t ignore it or hope it didn’t happen or pretend it didn’t happen,” Hurley said of the loss to WSU when he joined Arizona Sports’ Bickley & Marotta on Tuesday.

“We took it head-on and went after it. We went over film the next day of the first half and tried to point out some of the mistakes in the most constructive way we could without bringing a lot of emotion into it. Because the guys were beaten up, it’s been a touch stretch.”

With that, Hurley hopes ASU’s recovery win against Oregon translates to more for a team that underwent major roster turnover from a year ago and is still missing Marcus Bagley, who should be its best player.

Arizona State played toe-to-toe with the Ducks (5-4) through two halves, using guard D.J. Horne’s game-tying three with five seconds left to force overtime. While Horne led the Sun Devils with 23 points, Hurley again saw the defensive effort — the Ducks shot 41% and 18% from three — that he believes has been relatively constant so far this year.

Hurley also credited big man Jalen Graham for his clutch play after getting into early foul trouble — Graham got Horne that game-tying look off an offensive rebound.

In overtime, Horne twice assisted teammate Jay Heath for five of the team’s nine points. It’s that chemistry building on a reworked roster that Hurley hopes can grow into something more.

“Jay Heath’s (three in overtime) came on an extra pass from D.J., so that’s great to see the trust amongst players, that your teammate can make the play,” Hurley told Bickley & Marotta.

“I think you play the right way, you work hard on defense, you make the extra passes … and I think the guys saw that you play the right way, you can win. We’ve played hard, we’ve been in these games and haven’t gotten the results. To go on the road in a really tough place to play against a tough program and win a game like that, hopefully it builds confidence.”

Free throws

— Arizona State hosts Grand Canyon on Thursday, and Sun Devils-turned-Antelopes Holland Woods and Taeshon Cherry return to play at Desert Financial Arena.

“Got really good backcourt play with (Jovan) Blacksher and Holland Woods,” Hurley said of GCU’s guards. “It’s going to be a real challenge. Lot of emotion in that game as well, just the local nature of the game.”

GCU-ASU tips at 7:30 p.m. and airs on Pac-12 Networks and 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

— Hurley said Bagley (knee) will not be available for the Grand Canyon game but hoped to have an update about a timetable for his return in the coming days.

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