World news – Despite the interruption, ASU men’s basketball appears to be holding the momentum

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The men’s basketball team in the state of Arizona is hoping to build on their first game of the weekend in the Pac-12 game. Jalen Graham could help this cause. In the last three games he averaged 12.7 points and 6.3 rebounds. (Photo by Marlee Smith / Cronkite News)

TEMPE – One of the biggest challenges for Bobby Hurley’s team was finding a rhythm in a season full of irregularities.

It wasn’t easier for ASU last week. After two wins against California and Stanford, their first weekend in conference game, the Sun Devils faced yet another COVID-related hiatus. This time, two games against Utah and one against Colorado were postponed.

The postponement of the Mountain Road Trip and Utah’s trip to Tempe was the second break this season related to the contact tracing in the ASU program. The timing couldn’t be worse considering that the Sun Devils’ last couple of games may have been the best they have ever played.

The Sun Devils are now facing the challenge, despite a long break of 11 days to keep their momentum. Hurley compared his team’s situation to that of the ASU soccer team, which had several games canceled in the fall.

« It was very difficult to develop consistency with what we do and get more games under control « Hurley said in a Zoom newsletter on Wednesday. “But we’re not alone, we’ve got company this week.” As Hurley pointed out, the Sun Devils are returning to play the Oregon Ducks on Thursday night, a team that has faced similar cancellation issues throughout its season was. Both teams have only played 14 games and postponed six games.

Despite the challenges, Oregon set a 10-4 record and remains one of the tougher teams in the Pac-12. The matchup gives ASU one of their bigger tests of the season, which Hurley seemed to be looking forward to.

« You’re trying to keep track of things and see the opportunity you have, » Hurley said. « I mean, our guys have a chance to play (Thursday) against a really good team from Oregon that was probably the best team in the conference year after year since I trained in Pac-12, and it’s on ESPN. If that doesn’t get your juices going, something is wrong with you. « 

To maintain their upward trend, ASU will look to Jalen Graham to continue his solid game of recent years. In the last three games, Graham averaged 12.7 points per game and 6.3 rebounds per game. In the game On January 25th in Arizona, the second player from Phoenix posted the first double-double of his college career with 14 points and 11 rebounds.

Like his coach, Graham sees an opportunity through the adversity that is another interruption managed to hold on.

« We’re just trying to come back and pick up where we left off, » said Graham. « That’s all you can really do. Just come back with the same energy, the same pace and just keep trying to build. “

At the start of the season, many had high expectations for ASU to continue their successful uptrend under Hurley. In the Pac-12 Preseason Media Poll, the Sun Devils took second place, just behind the UCLA Bruins. ASU received five votes in first place and only five fewer overall points than UCLA.

The season did not quite meet these high expectations. ASU (6-8, 3-5 in the conference) ranks ninth in the Pac-12. Between December 10 and January 25, the team lost seven out of eight games. The only win at this distance came on December 13th over the GCU when Remy Martin hit a three-pointer with only a few seconds left to avoid the surprise, 71-70.

The last few games were one though different story, and Hurley likes what he saw on his team.

« I just like the direction we’re going, you know, » Hurley said. “Two wins, especially against Stanford. They were a few guys down, but they had some big wins before that. “

ASU now faces the difficult task of making up for as many of its six postponed games as possible. Any chance of sneaking into the NCAA tournament would likely depend on a hot period over several weeks, which Hurley says needs to be « aggressively » planned.

Although the team has been looking better lately, the Sun are Devils not ready to turn their eyes to the postseason.

« I just think we can’t focus on that yet, » said Hurley. “I think we still have a lot of growth and potential and these are dangerous words. But we have to treat every game as if it were our last game. « 

James Johnston expects to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Sports Journalism in 2021. Johnston is working for Cronkite Sports this spring.

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