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ASU men's basketball heads off on first road trip of season

After a three-game homestand, the Sun Devils will travel to San Diego

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ASU freshman center Enoch Boakye (14) dunks the ball while warming up to play North Florida at Desert Financial Arena on Monday, Nov. 15, 2021. ASU won 72-63.

ASU men's basketball will face SDSU for the team's first road game of the season Thursday at 8:30 p.m. MST.

The Aztecs currently hold a 1-1 record, with their one win coming against ASU's one loss, UC Riverside. After a poor start against North Florida, ASU (2-1) picked up the pace for a 72-63 win to bounce back from the buzzer-beater loss the prior game.

READ MORE: Sun Devils rebound from heartbreaking loss, beat the Ospreys for second win

With both teams having played a common opponent in UC Riverside, a look into how each team played could be telling for how the San Diego game will go. ASU played its game against UC Riverside close, but J.P. Moorman's unbelievable 70-foot buzzer-beater when UC Riverside handed the Sun Devils a heartbreaking 66-65 defeat on Veterans Day. SDSU played much better, beating UC Riverside by 13 points.

"These games are behind us now, and it's good to get back on track and win a basketball game, but the water gets deep now," head coach Bobby Hurley said on the team win. "We get Luther (Muhammad) back and see what Marcus (Bagley) looks like and get ready for a big game on Thursday night."

Hurley singled out junior forward Jalen Graham on his development from the end of last season to the North Florida game, saying that he was "far better than his last game."

The 6-foot-9 forward put 10 points and four rebounds against the Ospreys. He missed the first two games of the season for COVID-19 protocols. With Bagley potentially missing the San Diego game due to injury, ASU will need Graham to step up and deliver. SDSU senior forward Nathan Mensah scored 18 points and grabbed 8 rebounds in 23 minutes against BYU, and could be a big key to the game.

ASU starting point guard sophomore DJ Horne scored a team-high 16 points alongside five rebounds on the win against North Florida, and graduate student shooting guard Marreon Jackson had his best game of the season so far. 

The Aztecs are a guard-heavy team with three senior starters who are listed on the roster as guards. The Sun Devils will need more big plays from its starting backcourt for a chance to win the game.

Even with Bagley potentially missing the game, the forward spot might still be in safe hands. After the first three games of the season, graduate student forward Kimani Lawrence leads the team, averaging 16.7 points and 9.3 rebounds, and is tied for the team lead in steals with four.

"Coach Hurley wanted me to work on my handles, he wanted me to dribble the ball a lot more this year," Lawrence said. "We focused on that during the offseason." Lawrence is still showing a major improvement on the stat sheet and his on-court impact.

This game will give ASU one final tune-up before the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas.

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