After sweeping Oregon State and Oregon, ASU basketball got a much-needed confidence boost. With momentum in hand, the success seems sustainable.
The Arizona State Sun Devils have 12 freshmen and sophomores on its roster. When five underclassmen receive significant minutes at any major program, there is bound to be a learning curve.
Compiling talent through back-to-back top-25 recruiting classes, per 247sports.com, coach Bobby Hurley has built his team from the ground up, witnessing his players’ raw potential in some instances while managing immaturity and questionable decision-making in others.
But, as the Sun Devils returned to the floor following a sweep over Oregon State and Oregon, it has become apparent that they look to be turning a corner.
Peaks and valleys are inevitable with a group lacking experience. However, against Oregon, consistency was a primary theme complemented by an eight-minute period during which ASU made a 22-2 run.
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“I always felt like this team would be a late-developing team and have a chance to keep getting better. I’m glad to see we took another step,” Hurley said. “It was getting back to a standard that we’ve seen with this team earlier. You know the potential is there.”
Specifically, Hurley noted that the team defense continued to improve as the Oregon game wore on. The run was arguably the Sun Devils’ best stretch of basketball played over the course of the season.
Part of the development process also involves players discovering roles. The weekend offered clarity as to how sophomore forward Kimani Lawrence and freshmen guard Luguentz Dort and forward Taeshon Cherry fit into the lineup moving forward.
“He [Dort] may not have the most dominant offensive game, be our leading scorer but he impacts the defensive end every time and he’s making better decisions,” Hurley said. “Taeshon took a huge step this past week also.”
Dort tied a career-high with five assists on Saturday while Cherry knocked down nine 3’s over the weekend, including a career-high five against Oregon.
As for Lawrence, he showed signs of confidence that were lacking over a 10-game cold spell. He started the season strong, averaging over 15 points through seven games. During the slump, Lawrence’s scoring took a dive to just over six points per game.
Against Oregon, he netted 10 points but he was active on the glass (four rebounds) and looked better on the defensive end with two steals and a block. A return to his early-season form adds extended depth to the ASU rotation as he’s moved to the bench for three games now.
Time and time again, it’s been said that Hurley looks like he’s still has some tread left on his legs. In fact, the 47-year-old can still step in and take a charge.
ASU runs a drill where a player takes a charge before diving on the floor to retrieve a loose ball. Prior to the Oregon State game, Hurley wanted to set an example for his team by taking one.
“I thought we bent over too many times in the Stanford game instead of getting on the floor, being first to the floor,” Hurley said, “I wanted to do it in shootaround but coach [Rashon] Burno talked me out of doing that so I said ‘I’ll just take one for the team now.'”
Hurley proceeded to take another charge before Oregon at the request of redshirt senior forward Zylan Cheatham. If he’s called on again, Hurley and the Sun Devils might have a new pre-game tradition.
Arizona State will look to keep up the momentum, and possibly the pre-game charges, in Los Angeles when they take on UCLA and USC this week. The Sun Devils open the road trip in Westwood against the Bruins at 8:00 p.m. on Fox Sports 1.
All quotes in this article were obtained firsthand by Devils in Detail unless otherwise noted.