Arizona State basketball’s Bobby Hurley says defense and energy carrying load early

Dec 5, 2023, 12:41 PM | Updated: Dec 6, 2023, 5:04 pm

Head coach Bobby Hurley...

Head coach Bobby Hurley of the Arizona State Sun Devils looks on against the Nevada Wolf Pack during the first half in the First Four game of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at University of Dayton Arena on March 15, 2023 in Dayton, Ohio. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

(Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

Arizona State basketball is stringing wins together with four games remaining before its final Pac-12 schedule begins on Dec. 29 at Stanford.

The Sun Devils have won three games in a row to improve to 5-2, with head coach Bobby Hurley saying their defense and energy have been difference makers.

ASU has not allowed 40 points in a half during the winning streak, while the offense has shown life after a couple tough games early.

“I think it’s helping our confidence to see the ball go through the basket,” Hurley told Arizona Sports’ Bickley & Marotta on Tuesday. “I think that it has been our energy and defense that has carried us here early on, just our activity did a stifling job defensively on San Francisco, a very good offensive team, very good three-point shooting team. … We challenged shots very well, contested shots, guarded at the line, that was a priority for us.”

The Sun Devils’ 72-61 victory over San Francisco was a “very good win” for the program, Hurley felt after ASU lost 97-60 against the Dons last season. Hurley revisited the previous loss while preparing for the game, which was difficult to watch.

“It was not something I talked with the team a whole lot about, those feelings,” Hurley said. “But certainly rewatching the game preparing for this season’s game, it was tough to go through that. The coaches and the few players who had to suffer through that, it was a good feeling when the buzzer sounded to have a double-digit win this year.”

San Francisco was 5-2 entering the game having scored at least 70 points in four straight outings. It shot 36.5% from the field in Tempe.

ASU continues its nonconference slate with SMU on Wednesday at home, where the Sun Devils are 4-0.

Hurley reiterated a point that challenging the team in nonconference play is important, with top 50 programs via KenPom and Net rankings TCU and Northwestern coming up.

TCU will give the Sun Devils another look at a Big 12 opponent, one they saw in the NCAA Tournament last year when the Horned Frogs earned a 72-70 win.

Arizona State basketball injury update

Hurley said big man Shawn Phillips Jr. is progressing the right way after he suffered a foot injury. He has missed the last four games, but Hurley said he can gradually start working back in.

“He’s still looking at, I think, a couple of weeks,” Hurley said.

The Sun Devils have inserted Bryant Selebangue in the starting lineup, who scored 12 points on seven shots in 21 minutes before fouling out on Sunday. Hurley called him a pleasant surprise filling in.

All 72 Sun Devils points against the Dons came from the starting lineup, and Hurley feels the progression of Kamari Lands plus getting health will help the bench production.

“I liked the balance we had from the five starters, there was good shot distribution and a number of guys contributed on the offensive end,” Hurley said on Sunday’s win.

Last Pac-12 stretch for ASU

The Pac-12 football season ended with the title game on Friday, and heading into the final stretch of games within the conference before ASU’s Big 12 debut will be an odd feeling for the ninth-year head coach.

“It’s just gonna be weird because these are environments you’re no longer going to be going to,” Hurley said. “Just try and really soak it in. This is the last year of the Pac-12, so you’re just going to try and win as many games as possible. I would say the historical one for me as kind of a basketball purist is going to be walking into Pauley Pavilion. I think we play the last Pac-12 regular season game at Pauley Pavilion. So that’ll be an interesting way to finish Arizona State’s history in the Pac-12.”

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