After defeating Arizona, ASU basketball will look to ride that momentum into a huge weekend series with Washington State and Washington.
It has been a lackluster year for the Cougars, but if the Sun Devils want to keep their winning ways alive, they can’t overlook them.
“Washington State is one of the better 3-point shooting teams, and they can really score it,” said coach Bobby Hurley. “I was watching them vs. Oregon, and they were very competitive in that game.”
After missing some time due to injury, senior forward Robert Franks is finally playing at his NBA-worthy level, as he posted a pair of 20-point games last week against UCLA and USC.
Another player that could cause problems for the Sun Devils is freshman forward CJ Elleby, who has paired incredibly well on the court with Franks. Elleby also showed star potential when taking on Franks’ workload during his absence.
Following their matchup with the Cougars, the Devils will set their sights on taking down first-place Washington.
The Huskies played a loaded nonconference slate where they picked up all four of their losses this season. Three of those came at the hands of teams who were ranked at the time, including No.11 Auburn, No. 1 Gonzaga, and No. 13 Virginia Tech.
Washington is the lone unbeaten team in the Pac-12, and a large reason for that is its stellar zone defense, which is regarded as one of the best in the nation.
“Number one, it’s Mike Hopkins, and what he has learned coaching at Syracuse and teaching the zone and their rotations,” Hurley said. “And having a guy like (Matisse) Thybulle that can steal the ball ten times a game (with) his anticipation and his athleticism.
“He’s big-time defensive player.”
Sophomore guard Jaylen Nowell has been a driving force for the Huskies, as he leads the team with 16.7 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 3.4 assists per game. However, he could be without his right-hand man in senior forward Noah Dickerson, who is questionable this weekend due to an ankle injury.
The Huskies may not be the only team missing a key piece, as ASU freshman forward Taeshon Cherry will miss both games this weekend after re-aggravating symptoms from his concussion sustained two weeks ago against UCLA.
It is crucial that the Sun Devils take care of business at home this weekend if they want to contend for a Pac-12 regular season title.
“We know that we have these two home games, then five of our last seven are on the road,” Hurley said. “So it’s going to get more difficult after this week, and this week is going to be tough in itself. But you have to try and protect your home court.”
Tip-off against Washington State is tonight at 6 p.m. MST, and it will be televised via Pac-12 Networks. Then, the Devils will get the chance to play in front of a national audience Saturday night against Washington with the opening tip slated for 8 p.m on ESPN.
All quotes in this article were obtained firsthand by Devils in Detail unless otherwise noted.