ASU basketball pulls away from Oregon State late to end losing streak

Feb 2, 2023, 9:47 PM

TEMPE — Arizona State basketball coach Bobby Hurley said as players and coaches, losing streaks can feel like they won’t ever end, but the Sun Devils broke through Thursday against Oregon State.

ASU (16-7, 7-5 in Pac-12) took down the Beavers 68-57 with a dominant second half at Desert Financial Arena in a “reintroduction to winning” following a four-game skid.

The Sun Devils won the second half 37-22 with Desmond Cambridge Jr. scoring 16 after taking only two shots in the opening 20 minutes.

ASU entered the season with four new faces in the starting lineup and had not gone through adversity over a stretch as it had in January. Getting past it was a sigh of relief for its players.

“We definitely went through some growing pains, especially just four loss back-to-back, that’s hard mentally on us,” Cambridge Jr. said postgame. “We figured it out, we just kept sticking to it. We didn’t change anything. We did get closer as a team, we’re now holding each other more accountable, being able to take constructive criticism from each other. I think we grew on that.”

Hurley said anyone who has played at the NCAA level understands that confidence takes a hit with losing, and he’s hoping for a carryover effect going forward.

ASU was 15-3 and competing for first in the conference before a loss to UCLA. It has eight more games to inch back toward the top.

What worked, especially in the second half on Thursday, was defense, pushing the tempo and ball movement.

ASU assisted on nine of 11 field goals after the break and 18 of 22 for the game.

“That goes to show how much we connected over this little losing streak because at the end day, it doesn’t matter who makes the shots, it doesn’t matter who takes the shots, we just want good shots,” Cambridge Jr. said.

The Sun Devils did not come out of the break — trailing 35-31 — with great rhythm offensively, but they grinded out three trips to the free throw line on their first seven possessions to grab the lead back before kicking into gear.

Cambridge Jr. was a catalyst with some impressive feats of shot creation and a couple assists, such as this alley-oop to his brother, Devan:

Devan Cambridge was second on the team with 14 points, and Hurley complimented his effort on both ends.

“He was a live wire tonight,” Hurley said. “Going to offensive boards, he’s getting in passing lanes, he was communicating well on defense with the switches when we needed to. He brought the appropriate leadership to the team.”

Hurley said on Wednesday ASU did not defend well enough over the losing streak.

Oregon State (9-14, 3-9) got loose on a few 3s in the first half and hit six, but the Beavers shot 30.8% from the floor with two triples in the second half. In contrast, OSU finished the second half with three assists, as each possession was a struggle to score.

“We were rotating well, closing out well, it was definitely something we discussed at halftime,” Hurley said of the perimeter defense.

Alonzo Gaffney provided strong defensive minutes off the bench as a 5 in some lineups, and Hurley said the sophomore looked as good as he had in weeks.

The head coach also said before the game he wanted to see ASU get ahead after it trailed by double figures at halftime for three games in a row.

The Sun Devils offense had an auspicious opening eight minutes leading into the first timeout, jumping ahead 16-13 with 10 points in the paint. The offense slowed, though, and a 10-0 Beavers run put Arizona State behind at the break.

Hurley said no one was in panic mode after the stretch, nor did the Sun Devils look it in the second half.

ASU entered the season a new-looking team, but the starting lineup is veteran-laden and that leadership relied on this week.

Cambridge said the Sun Devils have had their fair share of meetings both players-only and with coaches throughout the losing streak and felt good about where they stood. The senior said he spoke with each player one-on-one, while his brother said, “Things that people are scared to say.”

Those losses really made us focus in on just being more connected as a team,” Cambridge Jr. said.

The Sun Devils will look to build off the win when they face the Oregon Ducks Saturday night at 8 p.m. in Tempe.

The game will air on ESPN 620 AM and 98.7 FM HD-2.


ASU head football coach Kenny Dillingham and dozens of players were in attendance for the win after signing day.

Dillingham has been vocal about supporting other programs, and Thursday was an eventful day for football going into 2023 and beyond.

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