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Arizona State head coach Bobby Hurley gestures in the first half of a Legends Classic semifinal against North Carolina State in an NCAA college basketball game Monday, Nov. 23, 2015, in New York.  (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
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Bobby Hurley: Close games are key to Sun Devils’ improvement

Arizona State head coach Bobby Hurley gestures in the first half of a Legends Classic semifinal against North Carolina State in an NCAA college basketball game Monday, Nov. 23, 2015, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
LISTEN: Bobby Hurley, ASU men's basketball coach

The Arizona State men’s basketball team isn’t ranked or undefeated, and they’re not playing the level of basketball that first-year coach Bobby Hurley wants them to…yet.

But through the first seven games of the year, the 4-2 Sun Devils have yet to be out of a game. In fact, the two losses they’ve had have been close games. The first, a disappointing three-point loss to Sacramento State in the season opener, and the most recent, an overtime heartbreaker to Marquette in the championship game of the Legends Classic in Brooklyn.

“You have to put yourself in those close games. Obviously we would love to have a wide margin of victory and to be a dominant team, but right now we’ve been in a lot of tight games,” Hurley told Doug and Wolf on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM on Wednesday.

The Sun Devils’ three most recent games were exactly that, with wins over North Carolina State and UC Santa Barbara that came down to one possession, in addition to the overtime loss to Marquette.

Hurley said it’s those close games that are key for his team’s development.

“To win anything meaningful against really good teams, you’re going to be in close games so you have to know how to win in those situations. I think it’s been helpful that we have been in that spot here early in the year and hopefully we continue to get better,” he said.

“We have to roll up our sleeves and try to get to playing better basketball. We’re finding a way to win and we’ve scraped out some close games here and I think we’ve done it without playing anywhere near what we are capable of doing—especially offensively. We’re going to have to find that and find it real soon considering the competition coming up here.”

The Sun Devils’ next string of games may be their toughest yet. First on the schedule is a road trip to Omaha to take on the 5-1 Creighton Bluejays on Wednesday night.

“We talk about if there’s NCAA tournament aspirations, and if you think you’re that type of team and that’s what your goal is then at the end of the year, Creighton is the type of team that you’ll be evaluated against,” he said. “I felt we had a really good practice yesterday in preparation for this and the guys feel very focused, so I feel good about where we are coming into the game.”

As important as the Creighton game will be for Hurley’s squad, it will only be a taste of what’s in store for the Sun Devils.

On Saturday, ASU plays host to No. 18 Texas A&M, but their biggest challenge yet will come the following weekend in Lexington when they take on the No. 1 team in the nation–the Kentucky Wildcats.

“We’ve played in a lot of close games, a lot of tough games. We’ve played against NC State and Marquette up in Brooklyn already, so we’ve seen that caliber of opponents,” Hurley said. “I’m hoping that the toughness is there and the fact that we’ve been in close games will help us in these situations.”

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