On the road for the first time in 2019, ASU basketball continues its Pac-12 schedule in the Bay Area, facing off against the 5-9 California Golden Bears.
In its opening homestand of conference play, Arizona State lacked consistency. A defensive-minded group, the Sun Devils surrendered 96 points in a loss to Utah before steamrolling Colorado by 22 two days later.
Despite mixed results against the Utes and Buffaloes, coach Bobby Hurley maintained a stoic expression Tuesday afternoon, describing his team’s first two games as ‘nothing to get excited about.’
For Hurley, the outcome is all too familiar to his experiences a season ago. ASU only swept one weekend of its conference schedule in 2018 — wins over UCLA and USC at home — overshadowing a 12-0 start and pushing the Sun Devils to the brink of the NCAA Tournament bubble.
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No longer strangers to the spotlight, ASU went 9-3 before the turn of the calendar with wins over Kansas and Mississippi State. But for Hurley’s team to take the next step, it’ll have to play with the consistency demonstrated against Colorado and rewrite history, winning on the road.
The Sun Devils have not won both games of a weekend road trip since January 2010.
Under second-year coach Wyking Jones, California remains in the early stages of what many deem a major rebuild. The Golden Bears sit at 5-9 in the Pac-12’s cellar, working to develop one of the conference’s least experienced rosters.
Jones’ strategy favors ASU as he heavily relies on his starters, a group that features no player taller than 6-foot-8 and concedes almost 80 points per game.
Junior guard Paris Austin, a Boise State transfer, leads the Golden Bears’ offense at 14.1 points per game and averages 5.2 assists handling duties as the program’s primary point guard.
Returners in sophomore forward Justice Sueing and sophomore guard Darius McNeill fall in behind Austin as the second- and third-leading scorers for California while Sueing leads the team in rebounds (6.4).
Jones’ starters average 82 percent of the team’s points, often exposing a bench riddled with underclassmen for a lack of readiness.
By comparison, the Sun Devils score nearly 80 points per game and have shown a capability to play a lineup with the smallest player on the court standing at 6-foot-4. ASU will have an edge on the boards and should take advantage of an undersized team.
While a win gives ASU a chance to snap a streak of road 34 series without a sweep, the key is building confidence and re-establishing an identity that will benefit it later in the season.
Against Colorado, freshman guard Luguentz Dort and sophomore forward Kimani Lawrence both reached double figure scoring. More importantly, however, both players shot at or above 50 percent from the floor.
Defensively, the implementation of a 2-3 zone stymied the Buffaloes. Expect to see Hurley utilize the zone once again given Cal’s inability to shoot 3-pointers complemented by a lack of size.
Should the Sun Devils come away victorious in Berkeley, they’ll go for a sweep against Stanford on Saturday. Tip-off between ASU and Cal is at 7:00 p.m. MT on Wednesday from Haas Pavilion.