When the ASU men’s basketball team convened to watch Selection Sunday, every member of the squad wore gold shirts that read “Hot Game.”
Ironically, “hot” is far from how the team has been playing the last three games, and the players admitted it as they prepare to compete in the NCAA Tournament this weekend.
The 10th-seeded Sun Devils (21-11, 10-5 Pac-12) are riding a three-game losing streak heading into Thursday’s second-round game against No. 7-seed Texas in Milwaukee.
Senior guard Jermaine Marshall has only averaged 8.3 points the last three games on 7-of-34 shooting. The team as a whole only shot 39.7 percent from the field in that stretch.
Since ASU returned from the Pac-12 Tournament, the team has talked about hitting a “reset button,” which was something redshirt sophomore point guard Jahii Carson alluded to following last Thursday’s lost to Stanford.
One way the team knows it must address in order to improve is how it starts in games. In all of their last three games, the Sun Devils fell victim to a big run in the opening minutes of the game. Adding up the three runs, ASU went behind in a cumulative 31-0 deficit.
This is something that has befuddled coach Herb Sendek, who thinks the team had been preparing the right way.
“If I had knew, I would tell our guys,” Sendek said. “We’re warming up the right way from all I know, and I know our guys go in with good intentions. We have to finish some makeable shots early.
“For whatever reason, we haven’t converted and to some degree, some of our lack of production on offense has spilled over to the defensive end.”
To the team’s credit, it responded in all three games by cutting down the deficit immediately after each run. Still, several members of the team said they were still “spotting” points to their opponent by giving up those early runs, which ultimately hurts them in the final score.
“If we can eliminate those, I think we’re pretty much in every game and win every game,” Carson said.
As for Marshall, he said his struggles are nothing more than a shooter’s slump and assured he’s in good, physical shape. He said he’s been putting in extra work in the gym, taking between 250-500 more shots than he usually puts up after practice.
“All I can really do is keep shooting and tell myself, ‘The next one is going in,’ ” Marshall said.
Maybe luck will favor the Sun Devils as they head into the Big Dance. After all, this is March Madness, and the last several years proved virtually anything can happen in the NCAA Tournament.
Sendek said he liked how the team responded in its last practice in Tempe on Tuesday before heading out to Milwaukee for the rest of the week, so perhaps that may have hit the reset button that they were looking for.
“I don’t think it’s by accident that we can call it March Madness,” Sendek said.
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