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UTEP Tops @SunDevilHoops Behind Strong Second Half

Dec 16, 2020

PDF: Every Box Score from 2020-21 Season | PDF: ASU Sun Devil Statistics (4-3; 1-0) | PDF Game Book: UTEP 76, at ASU 63 (Dec. 16, 2020) | Boxscore

Coming off an impressive closeout in a nail-biting win at Grand Canyon Sunday, the Arizona State men's basketball team (4-3; 1-0) couldn't hold an eight-point halftime lead and fell 76-63 to the UTEP Miners Wednesday night.

ASU got off to a great start in the first half, shooting 15-of-29 from the field (.517) and grabbing a 41-33 lead at the half on a Remy Martin driving layup.

UTEP began making key shots early in the second that would narrow the lead and eventually tie the game at 41 just two minutes into half.

"We finished the half very well, had a nice lead, and it was gone in about a minute," said Sun Devil sixth-year head coach Bobby Hurley. "We didn't get to the [defensive] rebound two times and then Souley Boum hit a couple threes, we had a turnover, and before we knew it we had given away everything that we had gained." 

Josh Christopher led ASU with 24 points on 10-of-20 shooting.

"He did more than just make some shots, he really mixed it up well on defense, he was really connected to the game," noted Hurley. "I know making some shots helps and scoring helps, but we got to get more guys playing up to the level of intensity that he demonstrated in this game."

The Sun Devils finished with 10 steals and six blocks, with Christopher getting four steals and two blocks.

"I just think it comes down to us coming together," noted Christopher. "We have to be more connected. I think it starts with practice...we have to take advantage of the moment."

"We have to decide if this is important enough to you to appear like you're really interested in playing and competing harder through the whole game, not just 20 minutes," noted Hurley. "It's just mysterious how inept we were in terms of just competing and giving energy."

Arizona State has a chance to come against Pac-12 opponent Utah next Tuesday, December 22 at 7 p.m. at Desert Financial Arena on Pac-12 Network. The Sun Devils have defeated Utah in their last two meetings, and ASU is 1-0 in the league with a 70-62 win at California on Dec. 3.

QUOTING COACH BOBBY HURLEY
"We finished the [first] half very well, had a nice lead, and it was gone in about a minute. We didn't get to the [defensive] rebound two times and then [the UTEP player] got [three-point play], we had a turnover, and before we knew it we had given away everything that we had gained. I thought it was more of the spirit of how we competed that was so disappointing. We [have] to figure out some things and we're going to have to make some changes to who's playing, particularly [with] our front court. [I'm] disappointed that Remy couldn't play better as a senior and [after] such a great game on Sunday, you would love to see him and Josh play well together at one time. But if you look at the stat sheet, it's very revealing what the differentials were between the four and the five positions, so we certainly need to get more production there and figure out a way of how to do it. Chris Osten is going to play more. That guy [played] hard, competed, didn't put his head down, didn't pout, just battled and gave us everything he had. As a competitor, that's all you could ask for, and as a coach, that's all you could ask for."

You mentioned Remy not taking advantage of scoring opportunities, not being aggressive early in games, and yet we saw that again. Can you put a finger on why he's being a little bit more passive than usual?
"He just didn't have the normal look on him. He didn't have the passion, [wasn't] flying around the court and doing what you guys saw on Sunday, especially in the second half."

Can you speak a little about Josh Christopher's performance?
"He did more than just make some shots, he really mixed it up well on defense, he was really connected to the game. I know making some shots helps and scoring the ball helps, but we got to get more guys playing up to the level of intensity that he demonstrated in this game."

What did you tell your guys after the game?
"We have to decide if this is important enough to you to appear like you're really interested in playing and competing harder through the whole game, not just 20 minutes. It's just mysterious, how inept we were in terms of just competing and giving energy. I [have] to talk to [Remy] and I think he needs to have more of an impact to get guys motivated somehow, and I have to try and motivate people. He's been on some really good teams here. He's been on three years of really good teams, won a lot of games that have been relevant nationally and in our conference [during] the last two years, and I just wonder how much he enjoys this team."

What were you thinking about calling or not calling timeouts when the opponent was going on scoring runs, and what's your general philosophy with that?
"It's [about] trying to see if you could make a run [or] find another charge. I thought we had chances, maybe Zo's [missed] one & one [free throw] that we didn't get and then they got fouled and made two [free throws]. There's different isolated examples [like] that. When they [started playing] zone [defense], it wasn't like we had poor execution, we threw it to the high posts like we wanted to. But the whole thing was based on [the fact] we came out of a half [with] effortlessness."

Will rebounding still be a point of emphasis for you going forward and how have you been trying to get everyone to crash a little harder on the boards with Bagley out?
"It's gonna be key to get Marcus back in the fold and Chris Osten's going to get a lot more minutes because he'll battle, fight, and compete, and he's got a heart when he plays. He plays with a lot of heart [and] courage, so you're gonna see more of him and hopefully that'll help. There are some different lineups that we could explore with Josh, Marcus, and Chris out there, and just going a little bigger. We had to do a lot of small ball today because we [were] trying to generate some points, knowing that they were dominating us in the front court through most of that second half."

QUOTING JOSH CHRISTOPHER
In the last three games, can you put a finger on what the cause for poor play has been?

"I just think it comes down to us coming together. I think this team is [playing] separated, and we have to be more connected. I think it starts with practice. We have to come together as a team and play harder, I think that's what it comes down to. We [have] all this talent, but we have to just try to mesh it, of course we've had a short time to do that [with] a lot of new guys, but these are games that we can't afford to lose, we shouldn't lose, we shouldn't have come close to losing this game, but we [have] to take advantage of the moment. We were up by eight at halftime. We have to learn how to capitalize and not let teams feel comfortable. Boum came back in the game after sitting the last 10 minutes of the first half, and he scored eight straight [points], so just being able to keep momentum and just wanting it. You have to want it. Whether we're up by 20 [or] down by 20, we [have] to compete [and] finish out together."

Where do you think the team is at with the full-court press?
"At this point, ASU basketball needs to be better at everything, so as far as pushing the ball up the court, we need to be better. [In the] half-court set, we [have] to be better. Defensively, we need to be better. We need to be better at rebounding [and] not letting teams feel comfortable in the game. I think that team was real comfortable and they felt like they belonged on the court, which it shouldn't have been [like]. We should have handled business [from the beginning]. I think it starts with practice, so hopefully going forward in practice we lock in, have conversations with our teammates [and] our coaches. We're not even 10 games [into the season] yet, so it's not over. We have to lock back in and get back to the way we've been playing. [2019-20 ASU won] seven games in a row. That was a really fun team to watch a super fun team to watch. I enjoyed going to those games [during] my recruiting process, and that's what got me here, being able to see that. Hopefully, we can get back to that ASAP. We have no choice, though, so I don't have to be in interviews talking about losses. Man, it's not a good feeling."

Can you put your finger on what happened down the stretch there and why nothing was going well?
"Not showing enough resistance. We [have] to show more resistance. We can't let teams feel like they can do whatever they want. I feel like teams could be intimidated before they play us, but once they get on the court, we give them that comfort and they feel like they belong on the court. We [have to] kill teams [from tipoff], we're capable of doing it, it's just a matter of us locking in and doing it [and] not letting anybody walk on our floor and do what they want to us, it's unacceptable."

Do you feel like Marcus Bagley's absence has affected the way you guys have been able to execute?
"Missing Marcus right now is not good for us. He brings a lot, he's flying around the corner all game, a lot of us are missing shots, and [knocking down shots] is his strong suit right now, so not having him has been pretty rough for all of us, but it's no excuse. We [have] all this talent on the court, we have guys that have been here before in the moment. That's what I tried to say all game, 'we've been here before, we've been here before.' That's the beauty of this team having all this talent. When somebody goes down or somebody needs to step in for somebody, they can get it done, and tonight we didn't do that."