Arizona State basketball’s Bobby Hurley vows to fight for program amid disappointing season
Dec 20, 2023, 10:27 PM
(Arizona Sports Photo/Jeremy Schnell)
PHOENIX — Arizona State men’s basketball is not as tough as it needs to be, as head coach Bobby Hurley put it.
The Sun Devils managed 13 points in the first half against Northwestern on Wednesday at Footprint Center in the Jerry Colangelo Hall of Fame Series, falling 65-46 to end their nonconference slate with a 6-5 record.
Northwestern’s Brooks Barnhizer matched ASU’s first half scoring output alone, as the Wildcats took a 36-13 lead into the break. The dismal half followed a 20-point loss to TCU on Saturday in which ASU led by a point with 13:32 to play before a pair of technical fouls knocked their performance off the rails.
ASU scored three points in the final 10 minutes of Wednesday’s first half, shooting 1-for-11.
“As a team right now, mentally we’re soft,” point guard Frankie Collins said postgame. “…When we face adversity, you see how sometimes we get punched in the mouth and we don’t fight back. I think we got to go out there and just continue to play hard no matter if shots are falling or not.”
“We’re not as tough as we need to be right now.”
ASU basketball’s Bobby Hurley addressed Wednesday’s loss to Northwestern. pic.twitter.com/r7WZovGYW0
— Arizona Sports (@AZSports) December 21, 2023
Arizona State shot 1-for-5 from the stripe and 2-for-13 beyond the arc by the break, marks that have cost the Sun Devils all season.
ASU entered Wednesday’s slate of games 342nd out of 351 teams in free-throw shooting at 62% and 291st in 3-point percentage at 30%. Finding clean looks inside the arc was once again difficult in the half court, although there were open 3s available that did not fall.
The pace favored Northwestern’s tough defense with ASU more impactful in transition this year.
Hurley felt the offensive failures spilled into the defensive and rebounding effort. He pointed out an offensive rebound by Northwestern’s Boo Buie that led to a Barnhizer basket with seven seconds left.
“We’re kind of melting out there,” Hurley said. “As teams are coming at us, we don’t have a response. We’re not making shots, we’re missing free throws … I think we were tied with one of the Northwestern players at halftime, that’s how bad we were.
“We got to look at it and evaluate it and see what changes we need to make.”
The second half started off much improved with ASU cutting the deficit to 41-25, but that was as close as it got. The Sun Devils turned to a press to slow down Northwestern, but the Wildcats made enough shots to avoid a significant run. Northwestern shot 9-for-22 from deep on Wednesday, and Buie scored a game-high 22 points.
Boo. Buie. 🏹
📺: ESPN2 pic.twitter.com/N6cChoTTcQ
— Northwestern Basketball (@NUMensBball) December 21, 2023
“U of A” chants rang from the crowd with Arizona set to take on Alabama following the conclusion of ASU-Northwestern.
Hurley’s first remarks at the podium involved taking accountability for his coaching staff not having the players ready. Collins shook his head, saying the players failed to execute.
ASU lost its final three nonconference games after a four-game winning streak, and Hurley said he is “highly disappointed” with how the season has unfolded. He vowed to keep fighting for the program.
“I’m a fighter and I’ll keep pushing,” Hurley said. “Coach Kimbrough and I talked about this, we worked very hard to make this an NCAA tournament program. And we did that last year, and it was a really fun team to watch.
“We’re not having a great season right now. But we’re gonna fight for the program and do what we have to do to change this and see who wants to move forward with us and be about the right things and who doesn’t.”
Collins led ASU in scoring with 10 points on 13 shots. No one else had more than seven points.
The Sun Devils open Pac-12 play at Stanford on Dec. 29 followed by a road game at California on New Year’s Eve.