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ASU men's basketball loses to UA, drops sixth straight game

The Sun Devils' early deficit ultimately proved insurmountable against the Wildcats


ASU men's basketball coach Bobby Hurley watches a play during the game against UA on Thursday, Jan. 21, 2020 in Desert Financial Arena in Tempe. UA won 84-82. 

ASU men's basketball suffered its sixth straight loss Monday at the hands of rival UA 80-67, falling to 4-8 on the season and 1-5 in Pac-12 play.

Although the previous contest between the two teams was highly competitive, ending in a Wildcat win at the buzzer, the Sun Devils struggled in the first half of the rematch, falling behind 12-0 early and trailing 40-18 at the end of the period. 

"I've got to do a better job getting us ready to play the game," ASU head coach Bobby Hurley said. "The bottom line was Arizona was the hungrier team and they were more ready to play at the start of the game, and there wasn't a whole lot we could do."

In the first half, the Sun Devils shot 1-13 from behind the arc and notched just two assists to six turnovers. That low assist number, in particular, reflected the tendency of ASU's players to force one-on-one offense, a trap they have fallen into often on the season. 

"We were taking some tough, contested shots," Hurley said. "I thought we were over-dribbling and the ball movement wasn't crisp."

Accordingly, senior guards Remy Martin and Alonzo Verge Jr. and freshman guard Josh Christopher, who together average nearly 49 points per game, managed to score just six points altogether on 2-15 shooting in the first half.

The Sun Devils also struggled on the defensive end, allowing the Wildcats to shoot 56% in the opening period.  

ASU played at a much higher level after the break, forcing 10 UA turnovers in the second half and at one point launching a 17-6 run. However, ASU was unable to cut its deficit to less than nine. 

Despite the improvement in the second half, Hurley said there were "not many positives" to take away from the game. 

"I commend our effort in the second half, but the cabinet is filled with moral victories, so I'm not really that enthusiastic," Hurley said. 

Martin carried the offensive load in the comeback effort, finishing the night with 24 points and making 5-12 3-point attempts. 

Sophomore forward Jalen Graham notched career-highs in points and rebounds with 14 and 11, respectively. 

However, the Sun Devils' other stars were never able to find their footing offensively. Verge Jr. and Christopher both ended with season-low five-point performances. Christopher shot just 1-8 from the field and ultimately fouled out. Freshman forward Marcus Bagley, who also fouled out, was held to just seven points. 

For the Wildcats, guards James Akinjo and Terrell Brown Jr. both knocked down nine free throws and led the way with 16 and 18 points, respectively. Forward Ąžuolas Tubelis scored 16 points and grabbed a season-high 12 rebounds. 

With the loss, the Sun Devils, who began the season as the Pac-12's highest-ranked team, now sit in last in the conference standings.  

"We should not feel good," Hurley said. "I don't think anyone feels happy or (is) enjoying themselves right now. It's not a good feeling."

ASU will face Cal next in Tempe on Jan. 28 at 9 p.m. MST. 

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