Sun Devil Basketball laced up Saturday night for their first home game this season, taking on Texas Southern University. Both teams shot poorly, but ASU was able to capitalize defensively to edge the Tigers out and secure a 63-52 win.
Head coach Bobby Hurley set the team loose with a fiery energy, immediately full-court pressing Texas Southern. The press and defensive grit caused a 10-second violation, nine steals, and multiple out-of-bounds violations in the first half.
This led to the Tigers turning the ball over 16 times compared to ASU’s seven in the opening half.
Great defense leads to great offense as ASU scored 13 points off those turnovers in the first half, three of them being an electric and-one windmill slam by junior forward Jamiya Neal. In comparison, the Tigers only converted their forced turnovers into two points.
Going into the break, ASU held a 28-20 lead while shooting 34.5 % from the field, led by Neal, who had eight points. Jahmar Young Jr led the Tigers with six points.
When the Tigers brought it to as close as a two-point deficit in the second half. Senior transfer Zane Meeks and junior guard Frankie Collins hit nylon on their own pair of triples, bringing back the momentum for ASU.
“He’s in a new environment, a new system, a new offense,” Hurley said about Meeks. “He's got to learn it, and I have more confidence that he's picking things up quicker, you know, to give me the confidence to get him out on the floor.”
As a leader on the team, Collins said that when the opposing team is on a run or needs to shut down, he can be the guy to get the team a bucket, mirroring what happened tonight.
“I’ll just go out there and do whatever needs to be done and stop that run,” Collins said. “Whether it's a step-back shot or it's a drive into the lane and kicking it out, just making the right plays so we can be on the right side of this.”
Although the Sun Devils took the win, the 11-point differential disappointed Hurley. A main staple for the low differential ASU's numbers at the free-throw line, going 15-28 from the charity stripe.
"I think we had 15 deflections at halftime and turned them (TSU) over 16 times, so that was a real positive, ” Hurley said. “Unfortunately, it just didn’t translate into points. I think due to how we shot the ball at the free throw line, and that was fairly consistent throughout the whole game.”
Sophomore transfer Kamari Lands said that in their previous loss to Mississippi State, they let the opposing offense do whatever they wanted, but this game, they locked up on defense.
“I feel like with our length, switching, ability and athleticism, it’ll make it easier for us on defense,” Lands said. “They can’t get into the offense … make them shoot tough shots. Last game, we didn't do that at all.”
With an even record, the team looks to add offensive consistency to their defensive tenacity to take down UMass-Lowell in Tempe this Thursday at Desert Financial Arena.
Edited by Alfred Smith III, Walker Smith and Shane Brennan