ASU men's basketball prepares for test against Oregon

The Sun Devils remain in a slump during conference play

Last season the ASU men's basketball team took the country by storm in non-conference play only to fall flat on its face during Pac-12 play. Although this season started off strong, the Sun Devils and head coach Bobby Hurley have again stumbled their way to a .500 record in Pac-12 games.  

“I thought we’d be better than 2-2," Hurley said. 

The team’s most recent loss, an especially painful 85-71 loss to the Stanford Cardinal (8-8, 1-3), was possibly its most frustrating on a long list of perplexing defeats. 

“We just have to pinpoint an area that I can lock in on,” Hurley said. “One that we need to get better at. It seems like we’re a little bit all over the place with just the different things that are breaking down.” 

Whether it was the season-high 19 turnovers or the mind boggling 35.3 percent (6-17) clip from the free throw line, the Sun Devils seemed unable to get out of their own way against Stanford.

Days after scoring a career-high 24 points off the bench versus the California Golden Bears, sophomore guard Remy Martin earned his way back into the starting lineup alongside redshirt junior Rob Edwards. The duo combined to score 21 points against Stanford — however, it took them 28 shots to do so.

Saturday marked the fifth-straight game in which Hurley trotted out a new starting lineup, this time opting for three guards (freshman Luguentz Dort, Martin and Edwards) a mere week after opting for only one (Edwards) against Colorado.

While the team has been riled with inconsistency, there is some thought that assigning clear and defined roles could provide the structure this team so desperately craves. 

“The biggest thing we’re focused on right now is identifying our identity and sticking with it, not changing it game in and game out,” redshirt senior Zylan Cheatham said. “We’re just trying to stay consistent with the foundation of what we practice.”

The underlying sentiment that hangs over most conversations surrounding ASU basketball is the mediocrity that has come to define the Pac-12. Every infuriating loss to a seemingly inferior opponent stains what was already a much-maligned resume, one complete with incredible highs and extreme lows.

Now, with only conference play remaining, the opportunities for ASU to truly improve its case come Selection Sunday seem few and far between.   

“This isn’t the Big 12, or the Big 10, or the ACC where you can be 2-2 and still feel like ‘Hey, we’ve got a lot of season left and we can be positive,’" Hurley said. "Not this year, not with the way things played out in our league and with our winning percentage in the non-conference so low. It puts more pressure on you to have a really good conference regular season and so far, we’re behind in that regard and we have to do better.”  

With both the Oregon Ducks and Oregon State Beavers traveling to Arizona this week, the opportunity has presented itself for the Sun Devils to reassert themselves as the elite talent in the Pac-12. Oregon State (11-4, 3-0) has jumped out to a hot start in conference play, coming in winners of three straight games (Oregon, USC and UCLA).

Oregon (10-6, 1-2), has struggled to reach its lofty preseason expectations and recently lost star freshman center Bol Bol for the remainder of the year. While ASU has split each of its past two series against Pac-12 opponents, Hurley and the rest of the team are certainly hoping this stretch can be the start of something new. 

“I feel like over time we’re starting to learn to trust each other and we’re starting to see what happens when we don’t play our roles and do whatever it is to help the team win,” Cheatham said. “We took some losses that we know we shouldn’t have taken, but like I said we’re all really focused on bouncing back by any means.” 


Reach the reporter at Jrosenfa@asu.edu or follow @jacobrosenfarb on Twitter. 

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