ARIZONA STATE BASKETBALL

ASU’s Bobby Hurley regrets suspension; ready for No. 3 Arizona challenge

Jan 27, 2022, 3:29 PM | Updated: 3:29 pm
Head coach Bobby Hurley of the Arizona State Sun Devils reacts against the Syracuse Orange during t...
Head coach Bobby Hurley of the Arizona State Sun Devils reacts against the Syracuse Orange during the First Four of the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at UD Arena on March 14, 2018 in Dayton, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

The Arizona State Sun Devils and head coach Bobby Hurley are in the midst of a brutal two-week stretch.

After suffering a heartbreaking 79-76 defeat to Stanford last Saturday, Hurley and guard Jay Heath were suspended for one game for their roles in a postgame altercation with the referees. Hurley was also fined $20,000, as the Cardinal shot a whopping 41 free throws compared to ASU’s nine attempts from the charity stripe.

Monday marked the first of a five-game gauntlet for Arizona State, having to play at No. 15 USC and at No. 3 Arizona this week before returning to Tempe to host USC, No. 7 UCLA and Arizona.

“At the moment I have peace of mind, I have peace in my heart,” Hurley told Arizona Sports’ Bickley & Marotta of how he felt about the suspension on Thursday. “I had enormous regret that I was not able to be there for my team against USC. … I just think we ran out of steam playing with seven guys and no head coach. It was a lot to ask playing a very good USC team.”

The ASU head coach was still able to be involved in all the shootaround and film study preparations leadup to the eventual 78-56 loss.

“Sitting back in the hotel meeting room with Jay Heath and Kimani Lawrence, it was tough to watch,” Hurley said. “Those guys felt horrible that they weren’t part of it as well. It was surreal to not be there coaching the game.”

Looking ahead to Saturday’s 12:30 p.m. tip-off against the Arizona Wildcats in Tucson, both big man Alonzo Gaffney and forward Kimani Lawrence are questionable. Gaffney suffered an elbow to the face against USC, while Lawrence is dealing with a non-COVID-19 illness.

Arizona is also dealing with the injury bug, as forward Azuolas Tubelis suffered a sprained ankle against Stanford on Jan. 20 that caused him to miss the Cal game on Sunday and only play 14 minutes off the bench against UCLA on Tuesday.

However, with the likes of 2022 NBA Draft lottery prospect Bennedict Mathurin and Co.’s offensive prowess, the Wildcats (16-2; 6-1 in Pac-12) have stormed out of the gates as one of the best teams in the country. Arizona is also coming off its first conference loss of the season, a 75-59 defeat to UCLA at Pauley Pavilion.

“They’re an improved team. That’s what happens when you have really good young players that get better and take steps,” Hurley told reporters on Thursday. “You see Mathurin, (Christian) Koloko has really improved.

“I think (Kerr) Kriisa is really the heart and soul of the team just with his personality when he’s going well, I think they get a lot of positive energy off that. Tubelis obviously the ankle slowed him some in their last game but he’s having a fantastic season. They have a lot of really good pieces and are a heck of a basketball team.”

The ASU head coach added that Arizona’s ability to score points, specifically in transition, reminds him of the 2017-18 Sun Devils that started out 12-0.

There’s a chance Arizona State might deploy a zone defense in order to try to slow down the Wildcats as it did against USC. But Hurley has always preferred to stay man-to-man, especially when it comes to playing good rebounding and three-point shooting teams like Arizona.

“We’re going to be up to the challenge,” he said. “I know we’ll be excited to play. These games are the reason why you go to the Pac-12 to play the competition of Arizona, UCLA and USC.”

ASU tips off against Arizona at the McKale Memorial Center in Tucson on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

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