ARIZONA STATE BASKETBALL

Arizona State basketball ups the tempo in comeback victory over SMU

Dec 7, 2023, 12:23 AM | Updated: 7:46 am

Arizona State Sun Devils guard Jose Perez...

Arizona State Sun Devils guard Jose Perez (12) points to a teammate during the college basketball game between the Southern Methodist Mustangs and the Arizona State Sun Devils on December 6, 2023 at Desert Financial Arena in Tempe, Arizona. (Photo by Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

(Photo by Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

TEMPE — Arizona State men’s basketball turned up the pace with a fullcourt press, flipping the advantage leading to its 76-74 win over SMU at Desert Financial Arena on Wednesday.

The Sun Devils (6-2) used the hastened tempo to come back from down 63-50 with 11:28 left in the game, forcing eight turnovers in the final 10 minutes of their fourth straight win. ASU is 5-0 at home.

Head coach Bobby Hurley said going to the press came out of necessity when SMU went up double-digits. Alonzo Gaffney using his length to guard the ball and Frankie Collins playing safety gave SMU (6-4) major trouble moving the ball.

“When we’re in our diamond, nothing against the two wings, but when you have Gaffney on the ball, with his length, he’s kicking the basketball out of bounds. I think by our numbers he had 10 deflections in the game so the inbounder doesn’t even know if he can throw the ball inbounds,” Hurley said.

“Then when you have Frankie Collins as the center fielder, and he has really great instincts of shooting a passing lane. Those two guys are where it all starts and they were very good at it today.”

Hurley’s squad went on a 16-3 run to tie the game, and a Collins steal and two-handed jam on the break put ASU up 68-66.

The Sun Devils kept it up, and the run extended to 22-3 going into the final 2:30. Hurley said his team showed a relentlessness to keep the pressure on.

“Press makes us play hard, makes us put in effort, turns teams over. Right now we’re playing well in transition as a team. We’re sharing it when we get in transition better than, in my opinion, the halfcourt set so I feel like right now we’re labeled as a transition team,” Jose Perez said.

ASU was outscored in the paint 42-22 (20-2 at halftime) and out-rebounded 44-34. Hurley said the lack of size with Shawn Phillips Jr. and Zane Meeks out was evident. But scoring in transition off turnovers and getting to the free-throw line were significant advantages for the Sun Devils. Collins alluded to their athleticism making up for the physical limitations inside.

Arizona State shot 43 free throws and made 32, with Perez hitting 12-of-15 shots from the stripe.

Perez led ASU in points with 20, while Collins added 17 points, six rebounds and four steals. Bryant Selebangue scored eight points with a pair of emphatic blocks. He nearly brought the house down — DFA was not full, but it got loud in the second half — with a transition dunk attempt late but was fouled.

The Sun Devils built a nine-point lead in the first half but went into the break trailing. Hurley felt the defense was lost for much of the middle section of the game before his team found it.

“We set a bad tone around the 12-minute mark of the first half,” Hurley said. “We had control of the game and then we stopped making multiple efforts. They were sending four or five to the glass so if we ever came up with the ball, we were ready to go in transition. We knew that was going to be a key number and we clearly outplayed them in the transition game.”

Despite being short inside, ASU is stacking up nonconference wins against quality opponents. SMU entered Wednesday’s game ahead of Arizona State in NET rankings, giving ASU its second straight win over an opponent rated higher (San Francisco) for what it is worth this early.

The Sun Devils get San Diego on Saturday in California before facing TCU and Northwestern ahead of conference play.

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