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ASU men’s basketball 'running out of time' to turn around rough start to Pac-12 play

The Sun Devils are off to their worst start in conference play since the 2015-16 season

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ASU guards Alonzo Verge Jr. (11) and Jaelen House (10) speak during a free-throw attempt during the team's 68-61 loss to Colorado on Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020, at Desert Financial Arena in Tempe.

At 1-5 in Pac-12 play, the Sun Devils are off to their worst six-game start to conference play since Bobby Hurley’s first year as the ASU head coach in 2015-16.

But other than having the same record of 1-5 through the first six games of conference play, there isn’t much else on the current team that resembles the 2015-16 team.

In fact, before dropping back-to-back games to rival UA, the current ASU men’s basketball team had much more in common with last year’s team. 

With many key players returning from 2019-20, like senior guards Remy Martin and Alonzo Verge Jr., and the addition of highly-ranked freshmen recruits in guard Josh Christopher and forward Marcus Bagley, many labeled the team as a prime breakout contender. But, as it currently stands, the Sun Devils have not yet played up to those high expectations.

After starting out 1-3 last year in Pac-12 play, the 2019-20 ASU team won nine of its next 10 games. So, when the current team started conference play 1-3, it was only fair for fans to point out that a turnaround similar to last season’s was possible.

Hurley acknowledged the similarities between the two teams and their records but said no two teams are exactly alike.

“I mention the irony of it, but there are no guarantees that this year will be like last year in that regard,” Hurley said prior to the UA game on Jan. 21. “I am a believer that when a particular group of people learn how to win and break through, there is a chance you figure out how to win these things down the stretch and they could come in bunches.”

Unfortunately for the Sun Devils, those wins have not started rolling in yet. In fact, the ASU men’s basketball team has not won a game since Dec. 13 against GCU, well over a month ago. 

One of the most frustrating components of this year’s team for fans has been the inability to close out games. In four out of their last five defeats, the Sun Devils have lost by single digits, including back-to-back last-possession losses to Oregon State and UA.

Verge Jr. said closing games out is something the team needs to work on but missing Martin and starting sophomore forward Jalen Graham for multiple games has not helped during their losing skid.

“I really do think we’re better than our record,” Verge Jr. said after the team’s loss to OSU on Jan 16. “I think the last three games we’ve been right there, and we had chances to win every single game.”

After the Sun Devils' most recent 80-67 loss to UA, Graham expressed his frustrations regarding the team’s play.

“I think that we’re just undisciplined. We don’t play as hard together and that affects us majorly,” Graham said. “We need to come into practice and lock in and play as a team. We don’t do that.”

Hurley summed up the team's mentality perfectly prior to the team’s game versus UA on Jan. 21, saying, “We are running out of time.”

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