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Rebounding woes haunt ASU men’s basketball in loss to SDSU

Alonzo Verge Jr. led the Sun Devils with 25 points in Thursday night's loss

asu men's basketball vs UA victory header

ASU senior guard Alonzo Verge Jr. (11) drives to the basket during the Sun Devils' 66-65 victory over UA on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020, at Desert Financial Arena in Tempe.

No. 23 ASU men's basketball missed the rebounding presence of freshman forward Marcus Bagley in an 80-68 loss to No. 24 SDSU.

The Sun Devils were out-rebounded 44-37 and have now lost the rebounding battle in four out of their five games. ASU also gave up 11 offensive rebounds and 17 second-chance points. 

Bagley, the team’s leading rebounder, suffered a lower left leg injury in a win over Cal last week, and his absence Thursday night reflected in the team's rebounding numbers against SDSU.

Crashing the boards has been a point of emphasis all season for ASU head coach Bobby Hurley. He said the lack of rebounding can’t continue if his team wants to win games.

"We can't have poor offense bleed into a lack of rebounding and that might've been the case," Hurley said. "There are ones that we can control, but when you're getting out-hustled on the baseline by someone that is more alert and more ready to go after the ball and they hit a three, that's a problem."

ASU started the game out slowly, as SDSU rushed out to a quick 14-2 run. The Sun Devils crawled back into the game behind star freshman guard Josh Christopher’s combination of crafty pull-ups and knack for drawing fouls.

With just over five minutes left in the half, ASU took its first lead of the game on a deep three-pointer from senior guard Remy Martin, his first shot attempt of the game. 

That first shot attempt from Martin came after nearly 15 minutes of play and was only one of three shots he took in the first half, highlighting an overall passiveness on offense for most of the period.

"I needed him to be a little more aggressive," Hurley said. "I thought he might've passed up a couple of shots. I needed him to create a little more."

Martin finished the game with nine points, five rebounds and three assists.

Aztec senior guard Jordan Schakel and junior forward Nathan Mensah were the only two players to score in double digits in the first half with 10 points apiece. Mensah also pitched in 10 first-half rebounds.

In the second half, senior guard Alonzo Verge Jr. started off hot on both ends of the floor, as he forced a turnover on the Aztec’s first play of the second half, recorded a steal just over a minute later and pitched in ASU's first eight points in the period.

After going up two points on back-to-back Christopher free throws, the Sun Devils surrendered a 13-0 run, and the Aztecs looked well on their way to victory. 

But, after two Martin free throws cut the Aztecs lead to single digits, the game once again looked within reach for ASU. 

Ultimately, the combination of a 10-4 Aztec run and Christopher fouling out of the game on a technical foul pushed the game out of reach for ASU. 

Verge finished the game with 25 points on seven made threes, Christopher with 13 points and five rebounds and sophomore forward Jalen Graham had 10 points and four rebounds. 

Graham said the team was lacking energy in the game, which is essential to the team's success with the lack of fans.

"We have to come together as a team, and we're still learning how to do that," Graham said. "We need our teammates to help us up and cheer us on, but if we don't do that morale is going to be down."

ASU will take on Grand Canyon University on Dec. 13 at 2 p.m. MST.

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