What we learned about Arizona State basketball in season-opening loss

Nov 9, 2023, 11:22 AM | Updated: 5:30 pm

Entering the 2023-24 season, men’s basketball coach Bobby Hurley emphasized that his Arizona State Sun Devils would not have built-in success.

It showed in the team’s season opener against the Mississippi State Bulldogs on Wednesday, a 71-56 ASU loss at the Barstool Sports Invitational in Chicago.

Both teams started the game rusty. It took nearly nine minutes for either team to reach 10 points.

While the Sun Devils won the first-to-10 contest, Mississippi State turned it on and dominated the rest of the way.

It could be a sign of things to come or simply a one-off for the Sun Devils, but there are a few things we learned.

What did we learn in Arizona State basketball’s season opener?

The offense needs work

The Bulldogs’ relentless defense held the Sun Devils to just 18 points in the first half, forcing five turnovers and preventing any threes.

ASU ultimately shot 5-of-21 (24%) beyond the arc. The 2022-23 Sun Devils, who made the NCAA Tournament, shot 32% from downtown.

Guards Kamari Lands and Frankie Collins were the only Sun Devils to record 10 or more points, as the team shot 32% from the field.

Arizona State did show aggression and get to the foul line 26 times but left nine points on the board there.

Hope in the defense?

The Sun Devils had no answer for Bulldogs guard Trey Fort, as the transfer recorded 21 points and shot 50% overall, with 10 of his 12 shooting coming from downtown.

However, they held the rest of the team to 50 points (40%) and caused 15 turnovers.

Collins had five of the team’s seven steals.

Despite a 39-18 deficit at halftime, ASU outscored Mississippi State 38-32 in the second half.

The Sun Devils held MSU to 30% from the field, though a notched up defensive aggression put the Bulldogs on the line 16 times.

The Rotation

One of Hurley’s more notable decisions was starting Lands and Jose Perez along with the returning Collins and Jamiya Neal, plus center Shawn Phillips Jr. Transfers Bryant Selebangue and Malachi Davis came off the bench, joining Alonzo Gaffney is an eight-man rotation.

While Lands led the team in scoring, Perez went 0-for-4 from the field with four rebounds and two assists.

A transfer who joined the team just last month, it was notable Hurley included Perez in the starting lineup.

“He’s very experienced, played a lot of college basketball,” Hurley told Arizona Sports’ Bickley & Marotta on Monday. “And he’s a hard-nosed player, he’s going to give you everything he has. When our fans watch him play, they’re going to appreciate his work ethic, his toughness.

“He’s added that dimension to our team. We have some younger guys so it was important for us — and it’s very rare — to add a player of his caliber two weeks before the season starts.”

Selebangue led Tulsa in scoring and rebounding last year while knocking down 61.5% of his field goals. He went 2-of-3 with six rebounds in the opener.

Davis struggled, going 1-of-5 with three turnovers.

Gaffney returns despite injury

Hurley said as late as Monday that he thought Gaffney would be out multiple weeks with a foot sprain.

However, Gaffney was cleared to play before the season opener, ultimately getting 17 minutes of playing time.

He shot 0-for-7 from the field with one rebound while notching a steal.

He also got into some foul trouble, racking up four personal fouls, the most of any Sun Devil in the opener.

Up next

The Sun Devils will look to pick up their first win as they host Texas Southern in their home opener on Saturday.

The Tigers also made the NCAA Tournament in 2022-23 and are searching for their first win of the season.

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