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ASU men's basketball uses exhibition game to prepare for regular season

With fans filling the seats and players filling the stat sheet, Sun Devil men's basketball got a preview of how the 2021-22 season could look

ASU v. University of St. Katherine

ASU junior forward Jalen Graham (2) drives the ball down the court against University of St. Katherine at Desert Financial Arena in Tempe, Monday, Nov. 1, 2021. ASU beat University of St. Kathrine 108-41.

ASU men's basketball won 108-41 in an exhibition game Monday against the University of Saint Katherine, presenting an opportunity to see the players and rotations before the season actually begins.

Sun Devil basketball returned to Desert Financial Arena with fans in tow — not just immediate family members — for the first time since 2019-20 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Head coach Bobby Hurley said it was good for the team to play in front of some fans and get a taste of what the environment will be like for when the team has its season-opener at home next week.

"I'm just excited that there are people (in the stands) and we have moved a step in the right direction in that regard," Hurley said. "Everyone could come out that chooses to enjoy it, and I know our players love it."

The storyline of the game was the shooting clinic sophomore guard DJ Horne put on in the first half, shooting 4-for-4 from behind the arc and putting up 15 points on perfect shooting.

"I know I can shoot the ball really well, so just locking in before game time and just really trying to focus," Horne said. "I mean, once I see the first one go in, it’s pretty much automatic after that."

Horne also said seeing fans in the arena was a nice feeling after a long summer of practices and hard work.

"As a basketball player, that's what you get up for on game days, just to see the fans," Horne said. "We've been practicing for so long. It's been a tough summer. So just to go out there and have fun and get to show off all the hard work you’ve been putting in, there's nothing better than that."

Sophomore guard Jay Heath also made an impression, finishing with 18 points on 6-for-11 shooting from the field. Hurley said it was nice to see a few of the players, including Heath, play more tonight after missing the scrimmage Saturday.

Graduate student forward Kimani Lawrence filled the stat sheet with 12 points, eight rebounds and three assists. Sophomore forward Marcus Bagley did not play due to an injury he suffered during practice, and Hurley said he is "making strides" and is hopeful for him to be ready come next week.

Sometimes in exhibition games, there can be a lack of effort or a lack of execution with the little things, according to Horne. He said this year is different, no matter the game, and the effort and execution is a main focus.

"I know rebounding and all the little things has been an emphasis of his," Horne said. "That's kind of what he's been preaching this whole time so that we don't reverse to the things we were doing last year, and I feel like this team has just (taken) that and embraced it. We're trying to make that who we are."

ASU played unselfishly with the ball on offense and played aggressively on defense by closing in on open lanes near the basket and clogging up the passing lanes. Although one can only take so much from an exhibition game, Hurley said he liked the all-around effort he saw before heading into the season.

"I've been saying most of the summer that our workouts have been highly competitive. I think we were practicing so hard leading into our first scrimmage that it translated into success in the first game," Hurley said. "I think I could put 10 guys out on the court that are going to practice as well and as hard as any team I’ve had."

ASU men's basketball will begin its season against the University of Portland at Desert Financial Arena on Nov. 9 at 5:00 p.m. MST in Tempe.

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Austin ScottSports Reporter

Austin Scott is a sports reporter majoring in Sports Journalism, and has been writing sports stories for three years. He looks to continue writing impactful, engaging sports stories for years to come. In the future, Austin wants to use his outgoing personality to do play-by-play and live sports production or sports radio and podcasting.

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