ARIZONA STATE BASKETBALL

ASU basketball preparing for Nevada, a familiar squad for 2 Sun Devils

Mar 14, 2023, 9:53 PM | Updated: Mar 15, 2023, 9:46 am

Desmond Cambridge Jr. #4 of the Arizona State Sun Devils shoots against the Arizona Wildcats as War...

Desmond Cambridge Jr. #4 of the Arizona State Sun Devils shoots against the Arizona Wildcats as Warren Washington #22 of the Sun Devils looks on in the second half of a semifinal game of the Pac-12 basketball tournament at T-Mobile Arena on March 10, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Wildcats defeated the Sun Devils 78-59. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Arizona State guard Desmond Cambridge Jr. was “shocked” on Selection Sunday to see Nevada would be the Sun Devils’ First Four matchup in the NCAA Tournament.

Cambridge Jr. and starting center Warren Washington spent three seasons with the Wolf Pack before transferring to ASU last offseason, and their first career Big Dance games will be against their former peers.

“I was definitely shocked, it was really cool just to see that we were matched up with them,” Cambridge Jr. told the media in Dayton on Tuesday.

“At the end of the day, I was just excited to be picked to play in the NCAA Tournament, especially with this being my last year in college, so that was definitely a big dream come true. But to play against a team I just transferred from, that’s really cool. I’ve got great teammates that I still talk to daily.”

Cambridge Jr. said he had some friendly banter with his friend, Nevada forward Tre Coleman, ahead of Wednesday’s matchup in Dayton.

“We guarded each other every day at practice, he made me better and I made him better,” he said.

ASU and Nevada both utilized the transfer portal to round out their teams last offseason.

Cambridge Jr. was Nevada’s second-leading scorer last year and leads the Sun Devils with 13.7 points per game.

Jarod Lucas is Nevada’s top scoring threat (17.3 points per game), a familiar foe for ASU after he spent three seasons at Oregon State. He spearheaded the Beavers’ run to the Elite 8 in 2021.

Arizona State head coach Bobby Hurley commended Nevada’s ability to overcome the losses of Washington and Cambridge Jr. and put together a 22-10 season.

“Well, just a ton of credit to coach (Steve) Alford and his staff for what they did this year, just knowing what they lost,” Hurley said.

“A very solid basketball team and a team that’s one of the best free-throw shooting teams in the country. Just unique, has a big point guard, and Jarod Lucas has got the experience playing in NCAA Tournament games with what he did at Oregon State on its run, and he’s a guy that can get hot and make shots. They have a lot of ways that they can attack you, so we’re preparing for that challenge tomorrow night.”

Nevada enters the matchup averaging 72.6 points per game (157th of 363) and allowing 66.9 (83rd) this season.

To Hurley’s point, the Wolf Pack finished No. 18 in the country in free throws and No. 4 in percentage at 79.1%.

Nevada also has a big starting 5 with 6-foot-6 point guard Kenan Blackshear.

“We’ve kind of been an undersized team, but I feel like we use our speed and agility to combat that,” ASU guard DJ Horne said.

“At the end of the day, we try to go into every game the same way, level-headed, just scout the opponent,” Cambridge Jr. added.

Blackshear and Lucas told the media that Nevada will try to slow the pace and make the right plays.

Nevada was No. 234 in the country in possessions per game and No. 308 in fast break points during the regular season, while ASU ranked No. 82 and No. 51, respectively.

“They’re a fast-paced team that tries to speed the opponent up on defense,” Blackshear said. “Me being a point guard, I have to take my time, make the right reads and just believe in my teammates really and just dissect the defense really.”

Nevada enters the tournament on a three-game skid, and Alford pointed to defense as a needed improvement.

“We’ve got to get back to guarding,” Alford said. “In our three losses, two of those three losses you can look at a lot of different things, but we haven’t defended the way we’ve defended all year.”

The winner will take on No. 6 seed TCU in the Round of 64 on Friday.

Tip-off from Dayton is at 6:10 p.m. on Wednesday.

The game will air on 98.7. the Arizona Sports app and ArizonaSports.com.

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