ARIZONA STATE BASKETBALL

Hurley: Jose Perez expected to return vs. Colorado, Arizona State must fix defense

Feb 6, 2024, 11:38 AM

Stanford Cardinal forward Brandon Angel (23) shoots over Arizona State guards Jose Perez (12) and J...

Stanford Cardinal forward Brandon Angel (23) shoots over Arizona State guards Jose Perez (12) and Jamiya Neal (5) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Thursday, Feb. 1, 2024, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Arizona State basketball has seen better days. The Sun Devils have lost four straight games and are now in the bottom half of the Pac-12 conference standings. They sit at 5-6 in conference play after starting out 4-0, with four of their six losses being by double digits.

In Saturday’s 81-66 loss to Cal, Jose Perez didn’t play a single minute of the second half due to a “minor incident,” according to Hurley. Perez has been one of the offensive catalysts for ASU this season but only had one point in 13 minutes in the first half.

“There was an incident right at the end of the half with Jose,” Hurley told Arizona Sports’ Bickley & Marotta on Monday. “It was my judgment not to play him in the second half, and that was punitive in its own right. We spoke a great length yesterday and when Jose spoke with the team, he wants to win, he’s frustrated. We all are. There was a minor incident. As far I am concerned, I’ve moved on from it.”

Hurley said that if Perez practices the way he usually does this week, he’ll play against Colorado.

The offensive side of the floor hasn’t been a problem worth noting, but the defense simply isn’t up to standards and has caused ASU to lose four games in a row.

Oregon, Oregon State and Cal all shot over 50% from the field in their wins against ASU, while Stanford shot 43.2% percent.

“We were never built to be a juggernaut on offense,” Hurley said.  “We have struggled to get stops in the last four games — we haven’t done enough work to get stops on the defensive floor in order to give us a chance to get out into the open court and get some easier shots.”

Let’s rewind to last Thursday’s loss against Stanford. ASU went into halftime with a 33-29 lead and seemed to have control of the game. After a back-and-forth start to the second half, the Sun Devils led 58-52 with about eight minutes left.

This is where Hurley’s comments come in. The Cardinal went on a 17-2 run to make the game out of reach for ASU.

“I thought we got tired,” Hurley said. “They really bullied us around the basket — I have to do a better job planning against a zone defense. We were really bad in that game with our movement.”

Hurley said that the game against Cal was the same deal. The Golden Bears shot 50% from both the arc and the field.

On the other side of the court, quality three-point shooting has been hard to come by for the Sun Devils this season due to a combination of injuries and underperformance. The team is the 326th-best three-point shooting team in college, with a 29.8%.

Hurley said that the team doesn’t have the resources, with both Brycen Long and Zane Meeks out with injuries. Adam Miller has shot 27.8% from three this season and only scored two points in ASU’s loss to Cal.

“There’s a correlation of our team playing well and Adam Miller playing well. He’ll never cheat you on effort, and he’s a worker, but we have to get better quality offense out of him,” Hurley said.

ASU will look to get back on track this week as it takes on both Colorado and Utah away from home. The squad beat both teams respectively in Tempe earlier this season.

For Hurley, there’s still time to turn this season around with nine games remaining before the Pac-12 tournament.

“It’s not unusual for a team to go through a stretch like this,” Hurley said. “We have to stop the bleeding. This is a big week for us. We have a huge challenge in front of us with two teams that are extremely good at home and that are having really good seasons.”

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