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ASU men's basketball defeats University of Portland in first game of the season

Fans filled the seats for the regular season home opener, highlighted by graduate student Kimani Lawrence Tuesday night

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ASU redshirt junior guard Luther Muhammad (1) takes a jump shot during the season opener against the University of Portland at Desert Financial Arena on Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021. ASU won 76-60.

ASU men's basketball won its season opener against the University of Portland 76-60 in the team's first regular season game in front of fans since early 2020.

The Sun Devils missed the energy of the live crowd last season and the team is excited to finally play in front of fans again. The fans inside Desert Financial Arena plus the energy of the team helped to propel ASU to victory.

"It felt good to be out there with fans," sophomore forward Marcus Bagley said.

ASU got off to a slow start in the first half, but a buzzer beater to end the first half by graduate student guard Marreon Jackson launched the team into a successful second half. ASU was leading Portland 31-25 going into the second half.

Graduate student forward Kimani Lawrence was the top scorer for ASU with 19 points, scoring on all five free throw attempts and going 7-11 from the field. Lawrence is one of five Sun Devils who finished with double-digit point totals, along with junior forward Alonzo Gaffney, Bagley, sophomore guard D.J. Horne and redshirt junior guard Luther Muhammad.

ASU struggled throughout the game on three-pointers, scoring on only 26.9% of the attempts made. Horne was the most successful Sun Devil from the three-point line, scoring on three out of five attempts.

"I think we took a lot of long ones early, so we just got to get back to what we were doing in our other two games we played, in terms of moving the ball a little better on the offensive end," head coach Bobby Hurley said.

ASU's offense struggled, and despite getting the win, the team is not satisfied with its overall performance. The Sun Devils will look to play their best offense throughout the rest of the season.

"We got the win, so that's important, but we're definitely a much better offensive team than we showed today," Lawrence said.

Gaffney shone in his Sun Devil debut going 7-9 from the field and 1-2 on three-pointers. The addition of Gaffney and freshman center Enoch Boakye provided the Sun Devils with some much-needed height, at 6-foot-9 and 6-foot-10 respectively.

Hurley hopes to see more opportunities for Boakye to play his style of basketball against future opponents. The Pilots shot 11 times from the three-point line, which does not lend itself to Boakye's style of defense.

"It was not a good defensive situation for Enoch, but I think he'll have more opportunity down the line," Hurley said.

The Sun Devil defense had a strong showing against Portland, and Hurley credited the team's defensive play as a main reason for the win.

"If your defense shows up and you've got guys playing hard at that end, then you're going to give yourself a chance to win on nights like this," Hurley said.

The Sun Devils will look to pick up another win against University of California, Riverside at Desert Financial Arena on Nov. 11 at 6:30 p.m. MST in Tempe.

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Kathryn FieldSports Editor

Kathryn Field is a sports editor at The State Press. Kathryn has previously worked as a full time reporter at The State Press, covering women’s basketball and lacrosse.

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