NEW YORK — Following a game in which head coach Bobby Hurley thought his team was turning a corner, ASU men's basketball showed Tuesday it still has a long way to go before it can be considered anywhere close to an NCAA Tournament-level team.
The Sun Devils (5-4) came out flat and stayed that way in a 97-64 loss to No. 18 Purdue at Madison Square Garden Tuesday night. Hurley summed up his team's performance in just a few words.
"Right now, we're a soft team," Hurley said. "We don't have any backbone... as sometimes frontrunners do, we folded and we gave in. It was sad to see."
Neither ASU nor Purdue could get into a scoring groove early, and the Sun Devils grabbed a 10-9 lead at the 13:25 mark of the first half. Then, they didn't do much.
"I thought we competed for about eight minutes out of 40," Hurley said. "That's not enough at this level."
The Boilermakers proceeded to embark on a 26-2 run over the next 8:25 to turn a deficit toward the brink of a blowout. Purdue sank 11 of 18 shots in the span.
In the meantime, the Sun Devils went 0-5 from beyond the arc, something Hurley credited with ASU's demise on both ends of the floor.
"It definitely effected how we defended and how we continued to compete throughout the game," Hurley said. "So that was very disturbing how we competed. It's not a reflection of my personality or the team's I've coached in the past, so we have to make some changes."
The Sun Devils ended the game shooting 4-26 from distance less than a week after tying a school record with 18 3-pointers in a win over UNLV.
In the second half, Purdue seemed unstoppable, making shot after shot on a 61.3 percent clip, extending their lead as Hurley stood, and eventually sat, helplessly on the sideline.
Despite the struggles defensively, ASU kept Purdue star sophomore forward Caleb Swanigan off-balance. But even when talking about his opponents, Hurley could not resist getting a dig in on his own players.
"Swanigan is a really good player," Hurley said. "He had six points and 10 rebounds, but I'm pretty sure he's probably not that concerned about that right now. He's probably happy his team won and played well. He's not concerned about that stat sheet and how many attempts they get in a game."
Swanigan's struggles made no difference for the Boilermakers, who had six players reach double digits, as junior center Isaac Haas and junior forward Vincent Edwards led the way with 16 points apiece.
Next up for the Sun Devils is a trip to San Diego, where they will end their whirlwind non-conference travel schedule against the San Diego State Aztecs. But Hurley acknowledged his group has some things to work on before then.
"We're never going to stop," Hurley said. "We're going to keep working at it and we're going to try to have great practices and stay in the moment and not think about what's too far ahead and fix what's in the present."
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