Bobby Hurley credits Frankie Collins’ will for ASU sweep in Bay

Jan 2, 2024, 10:20 AM | Updated: 11:32 am

Frankie Collins, Arizona State...

Frankie Collins #1 of the Arizona State Sun Devils brings the ball up court during the game against the Mississippi State Bulldogs in the Barstool Invitational at Wintrust Arena on November 8, 2023 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

(Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

It’s been expectedly choppy waters for the Arizona State men’s basketball team this season because of roster turnover from last year, early injuries and eligibility troubles.

But since an ugly season-opening loss to Mississippi State and through a three-game losing skid before Christmas, the pieces have been slowly patched together.

Health, availability and role definement all played a part in the Sun Devils’ Bay Area sweep to open Pac-12 play over the weekend, even if wins over Stanford and then Cal mirror one another with first-half deficits followed by waves of momentum changes in the second half.

Among the other common themes for Arizona State: Point guard Frankie Collins’ fingerprints were all over the pair of one-possession wins.

“The Cal game was in a way like going to the dentist for 30 minutes of that game. It was very difficult to see the ball go into the basket,” head coach Bobby Hurley told Arizona Sports’ Bickley & Marotta on Tuesday. “I know the kid (KJ) Simpson in Colorado had a great week against the Washington schools, but we went on the road and swept, which is very difficult to do, and Frankie had the game-winner at Stanford. He also put up 25 points and six steals. I think he put up a week that deserves Pac-12 Player of the Week.”

Collins hit the go-ahead shot against Stanford in a 76-73 win Friday before scoring 25 to go with six steals for a 71-69 victory over Cal on Sunday.

ASU (8-5) behind its press outscored each team by 12 in each second half.

Collins’ 3.2 steals per game — many of which come out of the fullcourt press — rank third in the country.

“He’s willing us to win,” Hurley said. “He’s making winning plays at that position and he’s doing whatever it takes, both ends of the floor. You need that level of desperation at that position. He’s great attacking the basket. He’s hitting … from three now, which is opening up things offensively.

“Now that we’re in bowl season and the NFL playoffs are around the corner and stuff, he’s like a free safety in our defense in press. He really does a great job at shooting the gap and stealing the basketball at very opportune times.”

Beyond that, ASU has locked in its pieces that for different reasons haven’t been available.

Starting guard Adam Miller is only four games into the season after he became transfer-eligible, center Shawn Phillips returned over the weekend after being out two weeks due to injury, while Kamari Lands has found traction as the sixth man and microwave scorer.

If the Sun Devils look past the oddity of recording three assists and shooting 39% against Cal and consider it a one-off, the biggest hurdle coming into the new year is simply about resting up following an extended weekend that wasn’t planned.

Arizona State’s trip home got delayed by a canceled flight that forced the team to stay in the Bay Area over New Year’s on Sunday. Hurley said he’s worried about the short turnaround into a home game against Utah on Thursday.

About the wacky assist total on Sunday, well, the tape at least made Hurley feel a little better.

“After rewatching the game again, there were certainly examples of ball movement and it was moved to a guy who just wasn’t able to make a shot,” Hurley said.

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