ASU men's basketball scrapes past Northern State in first exhibition

The ASU basketball team defeated Northern State 98-90 in double overtime on Thursday night

The sneakers were laced, and the game jerseys were hung up in the locker room at Wells Fargo Arena on Thursday night. The ASU basketball team returned to action for the first time since last March to partake in an exhibition matchup with Northern State University.

ASU defeated NSU 98-90 in double overtime, in a game where the Sun Devils had to dust off some of the cobwebs from a long off-season.

“They (Northern State University) are different,” ASU head coach Bobby Hurley said. “Their bigs are good at the five spot, and they can score and pass. They move the ball very well, and they move around with the ball, so they are a lot different than what we do everyday in practice, and so I knew that it would be a challenge playing them.”

Northern State is a Division II program that went 22-8 last season, and ended up losing in its conference tournament. This year, the Wolves returned with 10 players from last year’s team, and they managed to give ASU a tough fight throughout the evening.

Among those 10 players was senior forward Logan Doyle. Doyle was a Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference first-team selection last season, and he gave the ASU defense problems in the post throughout the night. He picked up 18 points on 5-6 shooting in a stellar performance.

One key component who was missing in the interior was ASU was redshirt freshman Romello White, who missed Thursday night’s contest due to a violation of team rules stemming back to last year.

“It sure would have been a plus to have him both in post defense and rebounding,” Hurley said. “We got out rebounded by 14 … he is a big part of what we are going to do.”

Among other notable stat lines, NSU shot 50 percent from the field while ASU shot 40.5 percent. However, there was a silver lining – NSU had 33 turnovers in the game, which can largely be attributed to ASU’s backcourt and the way they pressured the Wolves' guards.

Among those standouts at the guard position was freshman guard Remy Martin, who finished the game with 11 points on 5-10 shooting. 

“The enthusiasm he has for defense is something that I am welcoming with open arms,” Hurley said of Martin. “His whole approach and attitude to defense … we need more guys that take it that personal out on the floor.”

This year’s roster for ASU features an abundance of new and developing young talent, including ESPN top-100 recruit, freshman forward Kimani Lawrence. Lawrence finished the game with fifteen points and nine rebounds for the Sun Devils. 

“I did see some positives from Kimani in the second half,” Hurley said. “He had a nice steal and some rebounding stuff that we need. He didn’t shoot it well in the first half … but he kind of bounced back from that.”

Senior guard Shannon Evans II led ASU in scoring with 24 points, and senior guard Tra Holder also added 20 points of his own. Holder and Evans are relied upon as the senior leaders for the Sun Devils, and Hurley expects his backcourt to perform at an elite level in the Pac-12 conference this season.

On Thursday night, the guards played well together as a unit, but there is still a lot of room to improve prior to the beginning of the regular season.

“We had some shot selection problems from guys that I don’t typically expect to have that issue,” Hurley said. 

Ultimately, ASU came out with a victory against an opponent they are superior to on paper. NSU showed a very gritty performance, and nearly pulled off an upset on the road.

Although the margin was small, the game was just the first of many for ASU, and there are still a lot of new pieces to try and fit into the puzzle this season.

“It wasn’t like some other games in the past that we have played in an exhibition,” Hurley said. "This was a legitimate opponent that I think has got some talent … I think we will get a lot out of this. We will get back to work, and try to move forward from it.”

Up next, ASU will go on the road to face the University of San Diego in another exhibition matchup on Wednesday, Nov. 1 at 7 p.m.

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