ASU can keep pace with top-tier of Pac-12 with strong Oregon trip
TEMPE — The Arizona State men’s basketball team has an opportunity this weekend to keep pace with the top of the Pac-12.
At 13-3 (4-1 in conference), ASU currently sits in third place in the league standings with a road trip to the Pacific Northwest against Oregon (9-7; 3-2) on Thursday and Oregon State (7-9; 1-4) on Saturday.
With a sweep, the Sun Devils could return home with a 6-1 conference record as they host No. 7 UCLA (14-2; 5-0) on Jan. 19. The Bruins are currently atop the Pac-12 and are hosting the Utah Utes (12-5; 5-1) — the current No. 2 team in the conference — on Thursday.
But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s focus on step No. 1 of the aforementioned opportunity: ASU beating Oregon on Thursday.
“Honestly, the approach I have every game is important, but this is definitely big. … I don’t like to think too far in the future because with other teams winning or losing, that also has a bearing on our placing,” Arizona State guard Desmond Cambridge Jr. said Tuesday. “So as long as we go and handle our business, we’ll be alright.”
Oregon is coming off a 70-60 road win over Utah last Saturday, with the Ducks handing the Utes their first conference loss of the season.
And with longtime head coach Dana Altman at the helm, Oregon has tended to improve as the season goes on.
“At the end of the day, they’ve lost a lot of games, so I always look at what other teams did to beat them,” Cambridge said. “And to be honest, I really feel like we can beat literally any team. We just have to come with the right mindset, right approach in terms of our game plan, attacking their weaknesses.
“And so if we run, especially how we were (against Washington) … I feel like that’s just our strong suit, period, any game. So as long as we you know capitalize on that, then we’ll be alright.”
Oregon State is currently on a three-game losing streak to Oregon, Utah and Colorado, with the Beavers’ only conference win coming over Washington on Dec. 1.
But before Oregon State hosts ASU on Saturday, the Beavers will host the No. 9 Arizona Wildcats (14-2, 3-2) on Thursday. That losing streak could be extended to four by the time the Sun Devils get to Corvallis.
And with another potential top-10 matchup following the weekend road trip, ASU head coach Bobby Hurley and Co. can only hope OSU won’t become a trap game.
“It’s never easy to play in Eugene, so we have our hands full in that game and then obviously go to Oregon State,” Hurley told Arizona Sports’ Bickley & Marotta on Tuesday.
“But we handled our business here winning our last two at home. We didn’t take care of the Arizona game at home, so we need to get a road win. That’s how you stay connected with the top of the league: if you’re able to go on the road and win. That’s the objective this week.”
Arizona State tips off against Oregon on Thursday at 7 p.m. and then takes on Oregon State on Saturday at 2 p.m. Both games will be broadcast on Arizona Sports 98.7, the Arizona Sports app and ArizonaSports.com.